On Wednesday 02 November, the Olympic and Paralympic flags arrived in Fukushima Prefecture on the next stage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Flag Tour, the first time the flags have come to an area struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The initiative to include the Tohoku region in the Flag Tour forms part of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee's pledge to use the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to support recovery efforts in the disaster-affected regions.
A large crowd of local children and others gathered in the plaza in front of the Fukushima Prefectural Government Office in Fukushima City to welcome the arrival of the flags. There were enthusiastic cheers as the flags were presented by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Flag Tour ambassador Mikako Kotani, a bronze medallist in synchronised swimming at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, to Fukushima Prefecture governor Masao Uchibori.
Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Tamayo Marukawa joined Olympians and Paralympians from Fukushima Prefecture, including Olympic basketball competitor and Tokyo 2020 Athletes' Commission member Mikiko Hagiwara, at the venue. The athletes spoke about their sense of expectation in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Games, mingling and talking with attendees and waving flags with local children.
Hagiwara had a message of encouragement for the children who will serve as tomorrow's leaders. I can still remember how excited I felt the moment I walked into the stadium at the Atlanta Olympics, she told them. Find an athlete who can serve as a role model and work hard to be like that person.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Flag Tour is scheduled to additionally visit Iwate, Miyagi and Kumamoto Prefectures in order to show encouragement and support for other areas still recovering from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.