The Tokyo Games Organising Committee plans to transport the Olympic flame in a lantern by car instead of having it carried by torchbearers when the Japan leg of the torch relay starts later in the week, sources said Tuesday.
The torch relay will be held on a reduced scale and without spectators, with the decision aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus among people who would normally line the roads to watch the flame be carried past.
The change comes after the International Olympic Committee said Sunday that it will consider the postponement of this summer’s Tokyo Games amid the pandemic.
Plans for the torch relay are still being finalized with the fate of the Tokyo Games set to become clearer in the coming weeks.
Under a revised plan, the Olympic flame will be carried by car and placed on display upon reaching its destination each day, after it was determined that the existing plan ran counter to government recommendations to refrain from holding large-scale events to prevent the virus’s spread, sources said.
The Olympic flame was lit on the ancient grounds of Olympia, Greece, on March 12 and arrived in Japan last Friday. The Greek leg of the torch relay was suspended after just one day due to fears of further spreading the virus.
Soon after its arrival, the flame went on public display in Sendai, drawing a large crowd of people who lined up for a chance to snap a picture of the cauldron and flame.
The large gathering of people led organizers to reduce the number permitted to enter the area at one time and to post security guards to monitor the situation due to fears that having people in such close proximity would aid the spread of coronavirus.
The torch relay is a symbolic event that begins with the torch being lit on the ancient grounds of Olympia and culminates in the flame lighting the Olympic cauldron during the games’ opening ceremony.
The Japanese leg of the torch relay is set to begin in Fukushima on Thursday, after being exhibited as a “flame of reconstruction” in the three prefectures hit hardest by the powerful March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.