ATHENS (Reuters) – Tokyo 2020 organizers acquired the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony within the Greek capital on Thursday, amid the coronavirus unfold that has solid doubt on the worldwide, multi-billion greenback occasion.
Olympics – Olympic Flame Handover Ceremony – Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece – March 19, 2020 General view of the olympic flame in the course of the olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Aris Messinis/Pool through REUTERS
In a short ceremony closed to spectators in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, website of the primary fashionable Games in 1896, the torch was acquired by Tokyo Games consultant Naoko Imoto.
It will arrive in Japan on Friday and kick off a home relay on March 26, with the Games set to happen from July 24-Aug. 9.
A six-day torch relay by means of Greece was canceled final week, with the nation largely in lockdown having recorded 418 circumstances of the virus and 5 deaths.
The scale of the spreading coronavirus, which has contaminated greater than 200,000 folks and killed greater than eight,700 internationally, has pressured the cancellation of quite a few sporting occasions, elevating considerations about whether or not the Olympics will be capable of open as deliberate.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese authorities, nonetheless, have insisted the Games will go forward and have publicly rejected any speak of cancellation or postponement.
Greece’s Olympic Committee chief Spyros Capralos handed over the lit torch to the Japanese former Olympic swimmer Imoto in entrance of empty stands contained in the huge 50,000-capacity horseshoe-shaped marble stadium.
The flame was then transferred right into a small receptacle to journey to Japan aboard a particular plane named “Tokyo 2020 Go.”
Only a number of dozen officers have been allowed into the central Athens stadium because the nation has imposed strict measures to comprise the unfold of the virus.
The eerie temper in the course of the ceremony, which usually attracts 1000’s of Athenians and guests, mirrored the issues dealing with Tokyo 2020, with athletes and nationwide Olympic committees questioning whether or not the Games ought to be held this yr.
Despite the IOC’s dedication to the Games, a number of athletes have solid doubt on the standard of competitions in Tokyo, provided that 1000’s can not practice in the meanwhile resulting from restrictions positioned upon them in lots of international locations.
Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori stated in a video message he hoped the flame’s arrival would assist raise Japan’s spirits.
“Tokyo 2020 commits to be in readiness for the Games as planned…,” Mori stated. “The concept of the Tokyo relay is ‘Hope lights our way’. I hope that the light will shine on the hearts of people all over in Japan and that will shake off the dark clouds hanging over the earth.”
The airplane carrying the flame will land at JASDF Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture on Friday.
The home relay will begin from Fukushima Prefecture, website of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and can final for 121 days. It is deliberate to finish on the Games’ opening ceremony with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alex Richardson and Toby Davis