Japan: Father to run the torch relay with late daughter
TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Organising committees of respective prefectures and four Olympic partner companies selected the torchbearers from among applicants for the public offering and recommendees.
Nominated torchbearers for the Tokyo Olympic torch relay began receiving notifications Thursday, after which they took to social networking sites to express their joy. Organizing committees of respective prefectures and four Olympic partner companies selected the torchbearers from among applicants for the public offering and recommendees.
The Olympic flame will be transported by air to the Matsushima base of the Air Self-Defense Force in Miyagi Prefecture on March 20, 2020, and the Japanese leg of the torch relay will start in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26. The flame will travel around Japan for 121 days and will light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony in the new National Stadium in Tokyo on July 24.
Noriyuki Suzuki, a 54-year-old company employee who lost his 12-year-old second daughter, Mai, in the Great East Japan Earthquake, was also nominated as a torchbearer. Mai was a sixth grader at the Ishinomaki municipal Okawa Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture. “I would like to run the torch relay with Mai to convey to the rest of the world what happened at Okawa Elementary School,” Noriyuki said.
At the school, more than 80 schoolchildren, teachers and school officials died or remain missing due to a tsunami that was triggered by the March 11, 2011, earthquake.
Mai liked playing basketball. When she was a fourth grader, she joined a youth sports association and practiced basketball three times a week. While Noriyuki had no experience in basketball, he served as a coach and worked out with children at the elementary school’s gymnasium. At first, Mai was not good at running, but after three years of practice, her skills improved. “What I remember best is the practice of basketball, as I was always with her,” Noriyuki said.
After the disaster, Noriyuki formed a storytelling group to pass on the incident at Okawa Elementary School to future generations with other bereaved family members and local residents. He talked about the tsunami that engulfed the school, his feelings when he found his daughter near the school, and the importance of life and of disaster prevention measures. Noriyuki continued to talk about these things to more than 10,000 people every year at the former school premises and in various parts of the country on his days off.
When applications for torchbearers began being accepted this summer, he applied without hesitation. He wrote the reason for his application: “I don’t want people to forget the fact that many children fell victim [to the disaster]. I want to deliver the fact to the rest of the world, even just a little, by running the torch relay.” Thursday, Noriyuki received a notice of nomination from the Miyagi prefectural organizing committee.
On the day of the torch relay, Noriyuki plans to run with Mai’s name tag, which she had forgotten at home, on his chest. He has never taken the name tag out of his home, thinking that he should not use it without permission because it is Mai’s. So, he has stored it by attaching it to a cork board near a Buddhist altar at his home. After running the torch relay, Noriyuki will directly go to the former school to report to his daughter and other victims.