2020 Tokyo Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach, Summer Games, postponement, coronavirus, COVID-19
Athletes will have to submit a negative coronavirus test before leaving for Japan. Photo: PTI

As public ire over Olympics soars, officials scrap torch relay in Tokyo

Olympics officials have decided to hold the torch relay ceremonies in private and stream it online, as the Japanese protest the events amid COVID fears

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As COVID variants such as Delta Plus and Lambda threaten yet another bout of the pandemic, opposition has been growing in Japan against hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The country’s authorities insist the Tokyo 2020 games will begin per schedule, on July 23.

Yet, in an acknowledgement that some concerns of the public are being addressed, officials have scrapped the Olympic torch relay in Tokyo’s streets, BBC reported. From Friday, public relay events in the Japanese capital will be replaced with flame-lighting ceremonies that will be streamed online, it said.

One leg of the ceremonies, to be held in the remote islands of Ogasawara, south of Tokyo, will be held in line with the original plan, the report quoted officials as saying.

The Japanese have taken to the streets to protest against the Games, which were originally scheduled to be held last year but were postponed due to COVID. Now, too, the public wants the Tokyo Games to be either deferred or cancelled altogether, as cases rise despite vigorous vaccination.

Also read: What is a ‘Soul Cap’ and why is it banned at the Olympics?

The torch relay that was to be held across Japan began in March. Since then, it has been disrupted several times, noted the BBC report. Kyoto and Hiroshima cancelled the relays on public roads, and Tokyo has done that now.

So strong has the opposition been to the torch relay that a woman tried to extinguish the flame in Mito city by squirting a water pistol, videos circulated on social media have shown.

The 53-year-old, Kayoko Takahashi, shouted: “No Olympics. Stop the games.” She was arrested on charges of forcible obstruction of business, to which she admitted, said BBC.

Behind closed doors?

Meanwhile, an AFP report said the Olympic organisers are looking at holding the Games behind closed doors, amid questions on how many spectators will actually attend the game physically.

Last month, they set a limit of 10,000 domestic fans, which is about half of each venue’s capacity. Foreign fans are barred.

Further, they have urged the public not to line the route of the marathon. It is “necessary to reduce the risk of infection by restricting the movement of members of the public”, they said, as quoted by AFP.

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