Olympic torch relay to start in March in Japan amid Covid-19 measures

Tokyo, Feb 25 (efe-epa).- The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced Thursday that the Olympic torch relay will start as planned on Mar. 25 in Japan amid measures aimed at preventing Covid-19 infections.

The torch relay will begin in a month in the northeastern Fukushima prefecture and will travel through another 46 prefectures of the Japanese archipelago over 121 days, according to the committee.

The organizers asked Japanese citizens to refrain from gathering in large crowds in the streets as the relay passes.

The event will be broadcast on Japanese television and online.

Teruhiko Okada, the director of the torch relay, said at a press briefing that preventing crowds in the streets would be a priority for the organizers.

“No shouting, no cheering. Please cheer by clapping your hands and maintain appropriate distance in case there is overcrowding,” Yukihiko Nunomura, the vice director general or the organizing committee, said.

The organizers could even cancel sections of the torch relay in the event of excessive crowds and lack of social distancing in order to prevent coronavirus infections, Okada added.

The route will be in principle be the same as that planned for 2020.

The relay will start from the J-Village, a sports facility in the Fukushima prefecture, which, until recently, had served as a logistics base for clean up efforts after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

It will then travel through other regions that were most affected by the earthquake and tsunami on Mar. 11, 2011 as well as historical and cultural landmarks of the country.

The route is being reviewed and will be made public on Mar. 2, although parts of it could also be altered according to the situation of Covid-19 infections in each region, the organizing committee said.

All runners taking part in the relay will be required to wear a mask – except when a safe distance can be guaranteed between them – and monitor their health and disinfect their hands before the event.

Around 10,000 runners will participate in the relay although this figure could also change if some participants exhibit symptoms of Covid-19 or test positive in PCR tests.

The torch is scheduled to arrive at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on July 23 to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Games.

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan on Mar. 20 from Greece with the relay scheduled for five days later.

However, the relay was suspended after a decision was taken on Mar. 24 to postpone the Games by a year due to the global health crisis.

Since then, the flame has remained in Japan and been put on display at various locations amid restrictions on account of the pandemic, which has led the Japanese government to declare a new state of emergency in Tokyo and several other regions until early March. EFE-EPA


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