Tokyo organisers downsize arrival ceremony for Olympic torch

Organising committee President Yoshiro Mori also said that 140 children will not be sent to Greece to give the flame a send off on March 19.

Participants compete in the Bouldering discipline during the Sports Climbing Tokyo 2020 Olympic test event at the Aomi Urban Sports Park on Friday. The event was restricted to local climbers only due to the ongoing global COVID-19 outbreak.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday said organisers are downsizing the arrival ceremony in Japan for the Olympic torch on March 20 because of the spreading coronavirus.

Organising committee President Yoshiro Mori also said that 140 children will not be sent to Greece to give the flame a send off on March 19.

The Olympic torch will be lighted on March 12 in a ceremony in Greece and then flown to Japan to arrive on March 20. It is to arrive in Miyagi in northern Japan at a Japan Air Self-Defense base.

The four-month torch relay around Japan begins on March 26 from Fukushima prefecture, located about 250 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo. It is to end on July 24 at the new $1.43 billion national stadium in Tokyo.

Mori did not discuss any other changes to the relay. He was asked about the opening of the Olympics on July 24 and ruled out any postponement.

The International Olympic Committee and local organisers have repeated over and over that the Olympics will open as scheduled, and the Paralympics are set to begin on August 25.

Virologists, however, say it’s impossible to tell if the spreading virus will allow that to happen, and cancellation or a postponement is possible.

Twelve deaths in Japan have been attributed to the virus.

China is reporting more than 3,000 deaths from the virus, and still has more than 80 per cent of the world cases, though outbreaks are surging in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

- Test event held without fans, top athletes-

Despite the spreading virus, Tokyo Olympic organisers have finally held a test event.

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has forced them to rearrange or postpone several. But they allowed a sport climbing event on Friday to go ahead, with a few restrictions: no fans and no top athletes.

Instead, they used amateurs to test the climbing facility.

Almost all sports events and large gatherings have been shut down in Japan.

Preseason baseball is being played without fans, the soccer J-League is suspended until March 18, and a spring sumo event will be contested in an empty arena. Schools are also closed across the country.