© Reuters. Giant Olympic rings in a park amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
Through Ju-min Park
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee said Thursday they could suspend the upcoming torch relay in case large gatherings increase the risk of coronavirus infection and ask viewers to clap their hands.
The toned down torch relay, which will begin March 25 and travel through Japan, will be broadcast live to avoid gatherings in the street, Tokyo 2020 executive officer Yukihiko Nunomura told a news conference.
He said organizers had postponed a decision on whether to continue the season in Tochigi Prefecture, which was originally scheduled for late March, as the prefecture called for unnecessary outdoor activities to be eliminated amid the pandemic.
“If there are crowded gatherings in the streets, the torch relay may be stopped as we make safety a priority,” Nunomura said.
Tougher measures such as no onlookers are possible, with little visibility on how the coronavirus pandemic will develop, officials said. Eating and drinking is prohibited during torch relay ceremonies, but guidelines allow drinking water to avoid the risk of heat stroke.
The Tokyo Olympics faced a number of hurdles, including public opposition to the Games over health concerns and sexist remarks by a former head of the organizing team.
About 1,000 Olympics volunteers quit last month, organizers said. During this time, the President of the Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, resigned due to sexist remarks and a new President was selected to replace him.
Volunteers are the backbone of all games. They do everything from guiding people to venues to translating and driving visitors around. The organizers have announced that they do not anticipate any impact on the conduct of the games, as the number of games completed is only about 1% of the total.
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