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Olympic torch get a lift in Tokyo
Updated: 2004-06-06 15:22

Japanese athlete Koichi Nakano took part in the Olympic torch relay Sunday without having to carry the flame.

With the torch firmly strapped to the back of his bicycle, Nakano rode the flame over Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge.

Nakano, a 10-time world sprint cycling champion, was one of 136 participants in the torch relay that covered 53 kilometers (32.86 miles) in the nation's capital.

The Olympic flame touched down at Tokyo's Haneda Airport at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning after arriving from Melbourne, Australia. A steady rain didn't dampen spirits as spectators gathered to watch the flame make its way through Tokyo's crowded streets.

``I would have liked to have done this in my prime,'' said Nakano. ``But it's still a great honor to be selected to take part.''

Kazushige Nagashima, the son of Japanese baseball legend Shigeo Nagashima, started the relay at Tokyo Big Site near Odaiba, part of a sprawling man-made island in Tokyo Bay.

The elder Nagashima, who is the manager of Japan's Olympic-bound men's baseball team, was to have started the torch relay, but suffered a stroke in March and is undergoing rehabilitation.

Toshihiko Koga, who won the gold medal in judo at the Barcelona Olympics, carried the torch past Kaminarimon, the outer gate of Sensoji temple. Completed in 645, Sensoji is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple.
Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964. Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998) have also hosted the Winter Games.

The Japanese leg of the torch relay will be completed by 16-year-old table tennis prodigy Ai Fukuhara, who will be one of Japan's top gold medal hopes in Athens.

Fukuhara will carry the torch into a plaza at the futuristic Tokyo City Hall in Shinjuku where she will be greeted by Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara and other dignitaries.

Other sights on the Tokyo relay included the fashionable Ginza district and the newly-completed Roppongi Hills complex.

Tokyo was the third stop on a 78,000-kilometer (46,800-mile) journey across six continents, 27 countries and 33 cities with some 11,000 runners.
After Tokyo, the torch will travel to Seoul, host of the 1988 Summer Olympics.

All past Summer Olympic host cities are on the relay route - as well as 2008 host Beijing.

The torch relay returns to Greece on July 9 for the second half of its domestic relay before the start of the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

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