The Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay will use hydrogen fuel at certain stages as part of the organisers’ efforts to hold an environmentally friendly Games.
Hydrogen, which emits no carbon dioxide when burnt, will also be used to fuel the ceremonial Olympic cauldron during the opening and closing ceremonies.
“During its preparations for the Games, Tokyo 2020 has consistently promoted energy conservation and the use of renewable energy with the aim of supporting the realisation of a carbon-neutral society,” the organising committee said in a statement.
In addition, about 500 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from Japanese car manufacturer Toyota – the official Olympics mobility sponsor until 2024 – will be used to ferry officials between venues during the Games.
Masaaki Ito, Toyota’s general manager of its Olympic and Paralympic division told local media: “Hydrogen still has this image of being dangerous — that it might explode — and our aim with the Olympics is to erase this image.
“We want to expose the technology to as many people as possible.”
The torch relay begins in Fukushima on March 26 and will visit all 47 of Japan’s prefectures over a period of 121 days ahead of the July 24 Olympics opening ceremony.
The torch to be used for the relay has been designed with a cherry blossom motif, a flower with cultural significance in Japan. Five separate flames emerge from flower petals and come together as one at the centre of the torch to give off a brilliant light. To ensure the torch stays alight, it has two combustion mechanisms – a high-calorific blue flame and a flame-less mechanism using a catalytic reaction which supports a red flame.
To coincide with the cherry blossom season in Japan, the relay will begin in March 2020. The concept of the relay is ‘Hope Lights Our Way’.
The torchbearer uniforms are also designed to link to the overall theme. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay symbol is positioned at the centre of the chest and connects to a chequered pattern on the back, forming a diagonal sash design which has its origins in ancient Japanese Shinto rituals.
Aside from the hydrogen-powered torches, other initiatives to lower the environmental impact of the Games include beds made from recyclable cardboard in the athletes’ village, Olympic medals made from recycled consumer electronics, and the torches themselves, which are made from aluminium waste.