TOKYO – The organizing committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games announced on Saturday the cancellation of the Greek leg of the Olympic Torch Relay.
The move comes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the halt of most sporting events worldwide.
“Tokyo 2020 has been informed that the Greek leg of the Olympic Torch Relay has been canceled. However, we have been also informed that the Hellenic Olympic Committee has agreed to carry out the handover ceremony as planned on March 19, although there will be no public in attendance,” the committee said in a statement.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee said that due to the latest developments of the outbreak, the organization and the Greek health ministry had decided to adopt such measures “to contribute to the containment of the virus.”
It added that “the Olympic Flame will be handed over as planned to the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee on Thursday, March 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium, although there will be no public in attendance.”
The Tokyo 2020 committee’s statement, which said the games would be held as scheduled, added it would continue to collaborate with all related organizations including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Hellenic committee. The games are set to begin on July 24.
“Tokyo 2020 will bring the Olympic Flame back to Japan, and in line with the countermeasure policy set by the national government, we will work closely with all municipalities and related organizations in Japan to ensure the Olympic Torch Relay safely begins on March 26,” the committee said.
The Olympic flame, lit on Thursday at the Olympia ruins and later handed over to the hosts, was to take a week-long tour of Greece before continuing to Japan in the relay’s following leg.
Despite Japanese authorities and the Olympic committee insisting the schedule remains unchanged, the fate of Tokyo’s second Olympic games – 56 years after the 1964 Games – will depend on how the disease, which has infected 129,000 and claimed 5,000 lives worldwide, develops in the coming weeks.