ATHENS: Tokyo 2020 organisers obtained the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony within the Greek capital on Thursday, amid the coronavirus unfold that has forged doubt on the worldwide, multi-billion greenback occasion.
In a quick ceremony closed to spectators in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, web site of the primary fashionable Video games in 1896, the torch was obtained by Tokyo Video games consultant Naoko Imoto.
It should arrive in Japan on Friday and kick off a home relay on March 26, with the Video games set to happen from July 24-August 9.
A six-day torch relay by means of Greece was cancelled final week, with the nation largely in lockdown having recorded 418 instances of the virus and 5 deaths.
The dimensions of the spreading coronavirus, which has contaminated greater than 200,000 folks and killed greater than 8,700 the world over, has compelled the cancellation of quite a few sporting occasions, elevating issues about whether or not the Olympics will be capable of open as deliberate.
The Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese authorities, nonetheless, have insisted the Video games will go forward and have publicly rejected any speak of cancellation or postponement.
Within the absence of spectators, Olympic gymnastics champion Lefteris Petrounias ran a lap with the flame and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi lit a cauldron contained in the all-marble Panathenaic stadium.
Greece’s Olympic Committee chief Spyros Capralos handed over the lit torch to the Japanese former Olympic swimmer Imoto.
The flame was then transferred right into a small receptacle to journey to Japan aboard a particular plane named “Tokyo 2020 Go.”
Only some dozen officers had been allowed into the central Athens stadium because the nation has imposed strict measures to include the unfold of the virus.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou in a press release stated the traditional Olympic values of “concord, goodwill, brotherhood … are the weapon to use” towards the virus.
The eerie temper throughout the ceremony, which usually attracts hundreds of Athenians and guests, mirrored the issues going through Tokyo 2020, with athletes and nationwide Olympic committees questioning whether or not the Video games needs to be held this yr.
Regardless of the IOC’s dedication to the Video games, a number of athletes have forged doubt on the standard of competitions in Tokyo, provided that hundreds can not practice in the meanwhile attributable to restrictions positioned upon them in lots of international locations.
Tokyo Video games chief Yoshiro Mori stated in a video message he hoped the flame’s arrival would assist raise Japan’s spirits.
“Tokyo 2020 commits to be in readiness for the Games as planned …,” Mori stated. “The concept of the Tokyo relay is ‘Hope lights our way’. I hope that the light will shine on the hearts of people all over in Japan and that will shake off the dark clouds hanging over the earth.”
The airplane carrying the flame will land at JASDF Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture on Friday.
All the things in regards to the arrival ceremony will likely be subdued. The flame is to be greeted by just a few dignitaries, saluted by a flyover from an aerial acrobatic workforce if climate permits after which used to ignite a cauldron.
The burning vessel will likely be displayed in three northern prefectures earlier than the official relay begins on March 26 from Fukushima prefecture, which was devastated 9 years in the past by an earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.
1000’s of individuals from the area are nonetheless in momentary housing and life has not returned to regular for a lot of. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to make use of the Olympics to crown his run as Japan’s longest-serving premier, and lots of recommend he will not be round if the video games are delay and the financial system slumps.
Taro Aso, the Japanese finance minister and former prime minister, characterised the Tokyo Video games because the cursed Olympics when talking on Wednesday in a parliamentary committee. Aso was born in 1940, the yr Tokyo was to carry its first Olympics, which had been known as off due to World Struggle II.
“This isn’t a phrase that the press could like to hear, but it’s true,” stated Aso, who was a member of Japan’s taking pictures workforce on the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Aso identified that even because the scenario in Japan and Asia improves, it’s worse globally.
“We certainly hope to have a situation where everyone can at least come to Japan feeling safe and happy,” Aso stated. “However the query is how we do this. It’s one thing that Japan alone can not obtain, and I don’t have a solution to this.
Getting the flame to Japan represents a small victory for the IOC and native organisers.
Even when they don’t open the video games on June 24, the burning flame may very well be used as an emblem significantly if the video games are ultimately delayed and a rallying level for the Japanese public.
In a convention name on Wednesday, IOC president Thomas Bach bought assist for holding course, however can also be getting push again from athletes who can’t practice, are confused in regards to the qualification course of, and fear about their well being. Critics are additionally complaining in regards to the unfairness of qualifying, which could give some athletes benefits over others.
Revealed in Daybreak, March 20th, 2020