Tokyo 2020 organizers are asking people who feel ill not to watch the Olympic torch relay from roadsides, part of ongoing efforts in Japan to limit large gatherings and contain the spread of coronavirus.
The relay kickoff in Fukushima Prefecture will take place without fans, and local governments are canceling their welcoming ceremonies, organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said in Tokyo.
The decisions were “gut-wrenching” to make, Muto said. “The torch relay is supposed to be an event to boost excitement for the games, but the coronavirus outbreak has changed that.”
The changes are the first signs from Olympic organizers that the events of the 2020 Games may not look like previous Olympics, if they happen at all. Local, national and international officials have insisted the games will commence July 24 as scheduled, even as the coronavirus pandemic has forced a wide range of events and gatherings to cancel or postpone.
Greece’s Hellenic Olympic Committee held the torch-lighting ceremony without spectators and canceled the Greek leg of the torch relay. Tokyo officials will fly to Athens for the flame handover ceremony Thursday, which will take place without spectators.
The Japan portion of the relay begins March 26 in Fukushima Prefecture, and the committee said no spectators will be allowed. The torch is scheduled to travel to all 47 prefectures in 121 days, with special attention on the regions still recovering from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.