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Japan marks 3-year countdown to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) shakes hands with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (R) they put a mobile phone into a recycling box (C) to make Tokyo 2020 Olympics medals, prior to their meeting at Tokyo Metropolitan government headquarters in Tokyo on July 21, 2017. Johnson is on a three-day trip to Japan. / AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA

TOKYO — Japan began its three-year countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Monday with concerts, races and other events meant to drum up public enthusiasm for the games.

The 2020 Games will be Japan’s first summer Olympics since the 1964 edition in Tokyo. After a rocky start, organizers are gearing up to get the public more involved.

A 15-day, 1,000-kilometer (about 620 mile) citizens relay began Monday in northeastern Japan’s Aomori prefecture. Runners and cyclists will travel through areas ravaged by the 2011 tsunami, reaching the capital on Aug. 7.

Other events were to include traditional dancing and surfing at the Olympics surfing venue. In Tokyo, a concert and other festivities were planned for after dark.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are due to be held July 24-Sept. 6, 2020.

Since public transport is crowded even without Olympics-related visitors, the government launched an annual “telework” day on Monday to encourage more people to do their jobs remotely, especially during the 2020 Games. Dozens of companies have pledged to participate.