Big names and celebrities carried the Olympic torch through Nagano, the host city of the 1998 Winter Games, attracting thousands of Chinese students and local residents celebrating along the itinerary on Saturday. [Full Coverage]
The 16th leg torch relay of the Beijing Olympic flame concluded Saturday noon.
Li Binghua (Front), vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of Olympic Games, raises the torch during the 16th leg torch relay of the Beijing Olympic flame started at 8:30 a.m. local time Saturday, April 26, 2008, in Nagano city of central Japan. (Xinhua Photo)
The torch relay was kicked off at a short ceremony held in a small park surrounded by Nagano prefectural and municipal government buildings.
Those attended the ceremony included Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Li Binghua, vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of Olympic Games, Nagano Mayor Shoichi Washizawa and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai.
"The flame brings to Japan the spirits of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, and the torch relay will remind Japanese people of their passion when the flames of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics reached the land of Japan," said Takeda.
After being ignited by the flame from the ancient Olympia of Greece, the torch passed through hands of Takeda, Li, Cui and Washizawa in a row before reaching Hoshino.
The torch procession is scheduled to make a 30-minute break from 10:20 a.m. at the M-Wave speed-skating gymnasium and reach the terminal at a park south of the Nagano central railway station at about 12:15 p.m.
Thousands of Chinese students waving red flags and signs such as "One World, One Dream, One China" gathered in Nagano outside the setting-off site.
Supporters holding Chinese flags, mixed with some Japanese and Olympic emblems, lined the relay route. Eighty torch bearers took part in the 18.7 km (12 mile) relay through the city, including passing the Olympic stadium M-Wave.
Senichi Hoshino (R), manager of the Japan national baseball team, is the first runner of 80 torchbearers during the 16th leg torch relay of the Beijing Olympic flame started at 8:30 a.m. local time Saturday, April 26, 2008, in Nagano city of central Japan. (Xinhua Photo)
According to local reports, two protestors were arrested for their attempt to sabotage the torch relay. One hurled objects believed to be flares, while the other tried to break into the relay route.
The relay was started by Senichi Hoshino, the manager of Japan's national baseball team.
Senichi Hoshino is a former Japanese professional baseball player and manager.
In 2003, he led the Tigers to their first Central League pennant in 18 years before retiring for health reasons. On January 25, 2007, it was announced that he would manage the Japanese national team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.