TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo 2020’s Flame of Recovery tour, taking the Olympic flame to parts of Japan most affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has been scaled back as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, organizers said.
The six day tour was set to begin on Friday, and takes place before the official torch relay begins on March 26. It will visit locations in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, the areas hardest hit by the disaster.
Relay organizers said on Monday that “the main displays of the Olympic Flame will be staged largely as planned” but that certain elements, including the welcoming event with children on Friday and various other ceremonies have been canceled.
Organizers have been keen to label Tokyo 2020 as the ‘Reconstruction Olympics’ as a symbol of Japan’s recovery from the disaster.
However, a cloud hands over plans for the Games, due to begin on July 24, as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the world.
Several qualifying events, including those for climbing, boxing, fencing and judo have been canceled or postponed, leaving athletes uncertain about how and when they will be able to qualify for the Olympics.
Tokyo’s test event for volleyball, due to take place in the newly-built Ariake Arena starting on April 21, has been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Various other test events, dress rehearsals ahead of the actual contests in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have also been canceled, including rugby sevens and boccia.
The number of coronavirus infections in Japan rose to 1,484 on Sunday, including 697 from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, and 14 returnees on charter flights from China. Deaths in Japan related to the virus stand at 29.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Simon Cameron-moore