Three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura (R) and Saori Yoshida lit the cauldron during the Olympic flame arrival ceremony Friday at Japan Air Self Defense Force Matsushima Base in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
March 20 (UPI) -- The Tokyo 2020 Go plane carrying the Olympic flame landed in Japan on Friday after flying from Greece. The flame will continue its journey throughout the host country until the July 24 opening ceremony.
Friday's arrival ceremony included a small crowd of spectators, and featured a symphony orchestra and flyover by six fighter jets from Japan Air Self Defense Force Matsushima Base in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture. The base is about 240 miles from Tokyo.
Three-time wrestling gold medalist Saori Yoshida and three-time judo gold medalist Tadahiro Nomura began the arrival ceremony by taking the flame, which was transported in a lantern -- from the plane. They transferred it from the lantern to a torch before lighting a cherry blossom shaped cauldron.
The flame was then transferred back to a lantern and handed off to Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori, who was accompanied by Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita.
The Olympic torch was lit March 12 near the Temple of Hera in ancient Olympia, Greece. It was scheduled to travel throughout Greece and be handed off between 600 torchbearers before that relay was cut short due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
Japanese Olympian Naoko Imoto received the flame on behalf of Tokyo 2020 from Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos after the traditional handover ceremony Thursday at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.
Two Greek priestesses entered the arena and watched Greek gymnastic Olympic champion Eleftherios Petrounias bring the flame into the stadium after its shortened trek through Greece.
Petrounias ran a lap around the stadium before handing the flame to fellow Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi to light the cauldron.
The torch was then lit in a gold ceremonial cauldron at the center of the stadium. No members of the public were present due to the virus outbreak.
"We bid farewell to this great Olympic symbol, which brings together humanity, antiquity and modern times," Capralos said. "I wish to believe that the journey of the Olympic flame in your country will offer joy and hope to the people of the whole world, who are currently in pain and challenged."
Imoto lit a lantern with the flame and boarded the Tokyo 2020 Go plane before landing at the arrival ceremony.
The flame will remain in northern Japan until the Japanese leg of the Olympics torch relay begins March 26 in Fukushima. It will be carried to all of Japan's 47 prefectures before being used to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony July 24 in Tokyo.