Greece cancels Olympic torch relay over coronavirus fears


ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s Olympic Committee said it had canceled the remainder of the Olympic Torch relay through the country on Friday to avoid attracting crowds that could raise the risk of coronavirus contagion.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay got under way on Thursday when the flame was lit by the rays of the sun in ancient Olympia in a ceremony that was scaled down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The flame’s journey in Greece had been due to last seven days. On Friday it arrived in the Peloponnese town of Sparta, where Scottish actor Gerard Butler, star of the 2009 movie “300”, also ran as a torchbearer.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch as the torch passed through.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee said the opening leg of the relay had attracted unexpectedly high crowds, forcing it to suspend the remaining stops after consultations with the Greek Health Ministry and the International Olympic Committee.

The handover of the flame to the Tokyo Games organizers will take place as scheduled in the Greek capital Athens on March 19 – without spectators.

By late Thursday, Greece had registered 117 confirmed cases of coronavirus and one death.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Heinrich