My wife says I’m a “tamatama Girishajin” — a “Greek by accident” — and, generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with this rendering but I often find myself identifying with another rendering that is closer to “occasional Greek.” And my feelings towards the Olympic Torch Relay are the best example for this: I’m not particularly fond of the Olympics (or any other type of sports’ event or even activity for that matter), but I find the Torch Relay incredibly moving: in a very somber ceremony performed at Greece’s ancient Olympia several months before the Games, a group of women representing Vestal Virgins light the torch using a parabolic (i.e., curved) mirror and then the flame travels hand to hand around Greece, gets transferred to representatives of the next Olympic city, and is then flown to that country, where a second relay race is held there that ends with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremony – where the “let the Games begin” phrase actually comes from.
All this is very touching (even for a tamatama Greek) but once in a while, there’s going to be something to derail the Torch Relay and even the Games themselves: like, say, World War II. Or a pandemic of a very contagious disease like, say, COVID-19. Then the whole story about the Olympic Flame bringing together people from all over the world takes a backseat to not creating potential superspreader events all over Greece and the host country. And so the Torch Relay – and the Games themselves – get transformed from events that bring people together to events we all watch on our screens. Thankfully, this is something, especially those of us who are Gen X or younger, have been doing increasingly for the last 25 years! So if you too want to follow the Olympic Torch Relay, you only have to fire up your PCs and smartphones and go to the right places.
The first right place in this case is the official website of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and particularly the special section devoted to the Torch Relay. The landing page is here and from there you can watch the flame in real time as it goes from Fukushima to Tokyo. As you probably have heard, Japan decided to start from the region that got hit in the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident disaster, so it can show how the areas have recovered in the 10 years that have passed since. And of course, offer some great views of the things you can see in these areas when we are all allowed to travel again!
The second right place is NHK, Japan’s public and most powerful broadcaster. Its crews are following the flame on its journey throughout the country, so if you go to its Olympic Relay section of its website, you can see a map with the exact spot the flame is at any given moment and click on the corresponding video feed to see the actual runners. The only problem here is that the website is in Japanese but it really isn’t that hard to figure out: the map is your regular run-of-the-mill Google Maps kind of map, the torch’s route is signaled by easy-to-follow red dots and torch icons in the spots where it passes from one bearer to the next, and the video streams have corresponding frames on the top of the map. Just click and you’re there!
So what happens if you want a more personal, well, touch? Here is where Japan Trend Shop comes in: part of its huge Olympics and Paralympics merchandise collection — perhaps the most thorough you can find online with 95 items varying from the traditional to the modern and the borderline bizarre (see for yourself here) — are three items related to the Olympic Torch Relay: the official Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Asics T-shirt in three colors (black, white, and red) and six sizes (S-3XL) to fit practically everyone; the official Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Asics Baseball Cap in two colors (black and white) and two sizes covering everything from 52 cm (20.4″) to 59 cm (23.2″); and, best of all, the unique Tokyo 2020 Olympics Miniature Olympic Torch, a replica of the actual cherry blossom-shaped Olympic relay torch, amazingly detailed at about a quarter of the size. Get your merchandise, open up the websites, and follow the torch around Japan on its journey to the Olympic stadium in Tokyo!