03/20/2020, 16.34
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Olympic flame arrives in Japan despite the coronavirus

The reception ceremony was significantly scaled down. Many events to promote the Games have been changed because of anti-coronavirus measures. The IOC “is considering different scenarios” but “cancellation is not on the agenda”.  About 69.9 per cent of Japanese don’t expect the Games to take place as scheduled.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Olympic flame for the Tokyo 2020 Games arrived in Japan this morning; however, doubts and fears continue to grow about the impact the coronavirus pandemic might have on the sporting event.

Themed "Hope Lights Our Way,” the Japanese leg of the torch relay will begin next week and take the flame received from Greece across the country, but the authorities have imposed restrictions on spectators to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Olympic organisers had to significantly scale down the ceremony to welcome the flame at the Japan Air Self-Defence Forces base in Matsushima, Miyagi, one of the prefectures devastated by a strong earthquake and a subsequent tsunami nine years ago.

A small number of people attended the ceremony, held in blustery conditions, including Yoshirō Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee.

The reception committee was to supposed to be part of a high-level delegation sent to receive the flame in Athens yesterday, but the plan changed as the virus rapidly spread across Europe.

Due to the government’s anti-coronavirus measures, many events to promote the Games have been changed since the flame was lit on 12 March in Greece as scheduled, without spectators.

Whilst acknowledging the current difficult situation caused by the spread of the virus, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese officials have repeatedly insisted that the Games will start as scheduled on 24 July.

Nonetheless, many want to see the Olympics and Paralympics (set to open on 25 August) postponed since many qualifiers have been suspended amid persistent concerns over health risk to athletes.

Earlier this week, the IOC reported that only about 57 per cent of athletes have qualified for the Games.

In light of this situation, the IOC is "considering different scenarios,” but "cancellation is not on the agenda,” IOC president Thomas Bach told the New York Times.

A recent Kyodo News survey found that 69.9 per cent of people in Japan do not expect the Games to be held as scheduled given the spread of the virus.

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