The Olympic flame lighting ceremony - an important part of the Olympic Games process - is scheduled for this week Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
The Olympic flame lighting ceremony - an important part of the Olympic Games process - is scheduled for this week Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Tokyo torch lighting ceremony ups measures to combat coronavirus

By Karolos Grohmann Time of article published Mar 9, 2020

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ATHENS – Organisers of this week's Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia are planning tighter measures to protect against the coronavirus after already reducing the size of the event, a source said on Monday.

The Olympic torch will be lit in Olympia at a scaled-down ceremony on March 12 before a seven-day relay that will culminate with a handover ceremony in Greece on March 19, but the mayor of Olympia has asked the International Olympic Committee to move the event to May.

A source said organisers in Greece will further reduce the number of people inside the ancient stadium, with only a few dozen representatives of the Tokyo Games from a group of about 150 allowed access to the ceremony.

Organisers will also shut the press centre following the ceremony to avoid the gathering of many people in an indoor area and will stage Wednesday's dress rehearsal without the presence of media, the source told Reuters.

"There will also be a limit on media accreditations that have not yet been picked up," the source said.

Tokyo has already stopped 340 children from attending the ceremony while Greek organisers last week banned crowds from the dress rehearsal.

The prefecture of Ilia, of which Olympia is part, is among the hardest hit by the coronavirus in Greece.

The Mayor of Olympia has written to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, proposing the postponement of the ceremony until May.

"The danger of staging the torch lighting with only a handful of spectators, limited number of officials and delegations, and under a cloud of fear and concern will damage the greatness and prestige of this event," Olympia mayor Giorgos Georgiopoulos said in his letter.

"With a sense of responsibility, the municipal authority, all parties of the city council of Ancient Olympia, in order to secure the global radiance of the event asks the IOC which has the exclusive responsibility of organising it to consider the possibility of moving the torch lighting ceremony to May of this year."

Greece on Sunday announced a two-week ban on sporting events with spectators and on school field trips, as its number of coronavirus cases rose by seven to 73. 

Reuters

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