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9 Mar, 2020 11:12

Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch-lighting ceremony to be held WITHOUT SPECTATORS due to ongoing coronavirus fears

Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch-lighting ceremony to be held WITHOUT SPECTATORS due to ongoing coronavirus fears

The iconic start to Tokyo's 2020 Olympic Games will be held without spectators as it was announced the traditional torch-lighting ceremony will take place with no fans in attendance.

The Greek Olympic Committee announced Monday that the torch-lighting ceremony – the symbolic start of each Olympic Games – will be staged at a scaled-down, behind-closed-doors event due to the ongoing fears over the spread of coronavirus in the region.

The Committee announced the Olympic torch will be lit during a smaller-scale ceremony in ancient Olympia on Thursday, March 12 before heading off on a seven-day relay, ending in an official handover ceremony in Greece on March 19.

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However, the mayor of Olympia has requested to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the ceremony be pushed back to May.

"The danger of staging the torch lighting with only a handful of spectators, limited number of officials and delegations, and under a cloud of fear and concern will damage the greatness and prestige of this event," said mayor Giorgos Georgiopoulos said in his letter to the IOC.

"With a sense of responsibility, the municipal authority, all parties of the city council of Ancient Olympia, in order to secure the global radiance of the event asks the IOC which has the exclusive responsibility of organizing it to consider the possibility of moving the torch lighting ceremony to May of this year."

A source told international news agency Reuters that the ancient stadium in Olympia – host to the original Olympic Games – will only have a small number of permitted attendees, with around 150 Tokyo Olympic officials allowed access inside the stadium for the ceremony. The source also stated that there will also be a tightening on media accreditations for the event, while the scheduled dress rehearsal for the ceremony will also go ahead without spectators or media.

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The Greek government announced a two-week ban on sporting events with spectators following a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

Olympia is based within the prefecture of Ilia, which is one of the hardest-hit regions by the coronavirus in Greece.