March 18 (UPI) -- A plane decorated with Tokyo 2020 branding left Tokyo International Airport on Wednesday to collect the Olympic torch from Greece. It will return to Tokyo on Friday to continue the Summer Olympics torch relay.
The torch was lit Thursday near the Temple of Hera in ancient Olympia, Greece. Spectators were not allowed to attend the ceremony for the first time in more than 35 years because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Greek Olympic gold medalist Anna Korakaki became the first female torchbearer ever to start the relay. She then passed the torch to Olympic gold medallist Mizuki Noguchi, the first Japanese torch relay runner.
Actor Gerard Butler also carried the torch before the Greece portion of the relay was suspended Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak. Six-hundred torchbearers were set to participate in the relay before it was canceled.
The flame will now be flown to Japan on the Boeing 787 aircraft, named Tokyo 2020 Go, to continue its 121-day journey throughout the host country. The torch was lit using a special mirror, using the sun's rays to start the flame.
The flame will be part of a handover ceremony in Greece on Thursday before leaving for Japan. The Olympic torch relay in Japan is scheduled to visit 47 prefectures before arriving at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 24 in Tokyo. It will be used to light the Olympic cauldron.
Between 80 and 90 torchbearers will carry the flame every day in Japan, with each running 656 feet. Certain legs will feature groups of runners.
Once a relay has been completed at a municipality, the flame will be transferred by vehicle to the next municipality. The flame is placed in a lantern while being transported by plane or vehicle.