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JAL’s special livery for the torch relay (Photo: Japan Airlines)

JAL Prepares for Olympic Flame Transfer with Special Livery

With the Games of the XXXII Olympiad still planned to begin on July 24, the transition of Olympic flame from Greece to Japan will be completed this week using a Japan Airlines aircraft as an intermediary to get the flame across continents.

Both JAL and All Nippon Airways have sponsorship deals in place with the games, but Japan Airlines was chosen to be the one to fly the flame. In cooperation with the two largest Japanese carriers, a special livery and path between the two nations has been determined and will be executed on March 19 assuming there are no delays that could arise.

Japan Airlines has a long-standing history of being the official airlines for international events. The airline carried the previous flame for Tokyo 1964 using a Douglas DC-6 to carry the light from Athens to Tokyo. Furthermore, JAL has been the official airline of the Japanese Olympic Team since 1992 and the Japanese Paralympic Team since 2005. Alongside the Olympiad, the airline is the official airline for the “Samurai Blue,” Japan’s national football team, with both teams usually seeing a special livery when their respective international event comes around every two or four years.

For the event, Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner JA837J has been given a special livery to celebrate the event. The livery features a mix of gold and red trim with an outline of a human carrying the torch on the forward fuselage. The airline’s name, rival’s name, and official Tokyo 2020 logo make up the only text on the forward fuselage. Over the wing reads “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay” while the rear reads “Hope Lights Our Way.” The tail is mostly white with the official Torch Relay sticker above the Olympic Rings.

The aircraft will haul the flame from Athens to JASDF Matsushima Air Base which located just north of the city of Sendai. The flame was lit on March 12 for an original week-long trip from Olimpia to Athens but was suspended not long after due to Europe’s current Coronavirus woes. The flame will still travel to Athens and be handed over to the game’s coordinators for the trip to Japan but the event has since been closed to the public.

Once in Japanese control, the Olympic flame will transition via the Dreamliner to the host country’s territory, where it will take its remaining 100-mile trip on foot to the J-Village National Training Centre located outside Fukushima. The Arrival Ceremony will be highlighted by former Japanese judo gold medalist Nomura Tadahiro and gold medal winner Saori Yoshida. After the event at J-Village, the torch will depart on a tour of Japan with plans already in place to limit crowds due to COVID-19.

At the time of writing, the International Olympic Committee was reviewing the current plans to hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on time. The series of athletic events are expected to begin in July and run into August. However, with travel restrictions and the collapse of the athletic scene globally as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, the IOC will review the current plans for the summer games with changes potentially being made to help avoid an underperforming or fan-less Olympic game.


  • Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.

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