Olympic Flame lighting ceremony closed to public due to virus

By: AFP      Published: 08:42 PM, 9 Mar, 2020
Olympic Flame lighting ceremony closed to public due to virus

The Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for this summer's Tokyo Games will be held without spectators due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Greek Olympic Committee announced on Monday.

The committee said that only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will be allowed to attend Thursday's event in Olympia, where the ancient Games were held.

A dress rehearsal scheduled for Wednesday will also be closed to the public. "We urge the mayors of the cities through which the Olympic Flame will pass or stay overnight to follow instructions of the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Organisation," the committee said in an announcement.

The flame for Tokyo 2020 is scheduled to be lit with a traditional ceremony and following a torch relay in Greece will be handed to the Tokyo organisers at another ceremony on March 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

In a statement, Tokyo 2020 said that it would "reduce the size of its travelling delegation as much as possible".

"Tokyo 2020 is grateful for the efforts of all parties involved to ensure that the ceremony will take place while taking into consideration the latest countermeasures by the Hellenic Government against COVID-19," the statement read.

The torch relay in Greece will pass through 37 cities and 15 archaeological sites covering 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) and 842 nautical miles (1,559.4 km) and will be carried by 600 runners. On Sunday the Greek government announced that all professional sports events for the next two weeks will be played without spectators due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the country's health ministry saying on Sunday that 73 cases had been recorded.

The first leg of the Europa League last-16 tie between Olympiakos and Wolves at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Piraeus on Thursday will also be held behind closed doors.