Tokyo Olympics 2020: Organisers receive Olympic flame in scaled-down handover ceremony

Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on Thursday, amid the coronavirus spread that has cast doubt on the global, multi-billion dollar event.

Reuters March 19, 2020 17:04:50 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Organisers receive Olympic flame in scaled-down handover ceremony

Athens: Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on Thursday, amid the coronavirus spread that has cast doubt on the global, multi-billion dollar event.

In a brief ceremony closed to spectators in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Games in 1896, the torch was received by Tokyo Games representative Naoko Imoto.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Organisers receive Olympic flame in scaleddown handover ceremony

Former Japanese swimmer Imoto Naoko holds the Olympic flame during the Olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, in Athens. AP

It will arrive in Japan on Friday and kick off a domestic relay on26  March, with the Games set to take place from 24 July-9 August.

The scale of the spreading coronavirus, which has infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,700 across the world, has forced the cancellation of numerous sporting events, raising concerns about whether the Olympics will be able to open as planned.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government, however, have insisted the Games will go ahead.

Greece’s Olympic Committee chief Spyros Capralos handed over the lit torch to the Japanese former Olympic swimmer Imoto in front of empty stands inside the vast 50,000-capacity horseshoe-shaped marble stadium.

The flame was then transferred into a small receptacle to travel to Japan aboard a special aircraft named “Tokyo 2020 Go.”

Only a few dozen officials were allowed into the central Athens stadium as the country has imposed strict measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori said in a video message he hoped the flame’s arrival would help “shake off the dark clouds hanging over the world.”

The plane will land at JASDF Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture on Friday before the start of a domestic relay from Fukushima Prefecture, site of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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