Tokyo Olympics 2020: Plane departs Japan for Greece to collect Olympic flame, no high-level delegation on board due to coronavirus threat

Tokyo 2020 said it chose not to send the high-level delegation, which was originally set to include organising committee president Yoshiro Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, to Greece due to the coronavirus

Reuters March 18, 2020 13:23:12 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Plane departs Japan for Greece to collect Olympic flame, no high-level delegation on board due to coronavirus threat

Tokyo: A plane sporting Tokyo 2020 livery departed Haneda International Airport on Wednesday bound for Athens to collect the Olympic flame, but there was no delegation from organisers on board due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Plane departs Japan for Greece to collect Olympic flame no highlevel delegation on board due to coronavirus threat

Ground crew waves the special “Tokyo 2020 Go” aircraft that will transport the Olympic Flame to Japan after the Torch Handover Ceremony in Greece, departs at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo. AP

Tokyo 2020 said it chose not to send the high-level delegation, which was originally set to include organising committee president Yoshiro Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, to Greece due to the coronavirus.

The flu-like virus has killed more than 7,500 people and brought sports to a standstill around the world.

Japan’s ambassador to Greece will receive the flame at a handover ceremony, organisers said. Lower-level Tokyo 2020 officials who travelled to Greece last week will accompany the flame back to Japan.

Some 20 airlines and airport staff waved the plane off with very little fanfare at the airport, which was almost empty as travel restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus have led to widespread flight cancellations.

The Olympic flame will arrive on Japanese soil on Friday at Matushima airbase and be greeted by another low key ceremony.

Despite sporting events being cancelled across the world in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Olympics organisers maintain the Games will start as planned on 24 July.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Tuesday that it does not plan any “drastic” decisions about the Games, saying it remains fully committed to the event being staged in four months’ time despite the global spread of the coronavirus.

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