Tokyo Olympics: Masks, distancing required for roadside spectators during torch relay

The 121-day torch relay of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is set to begin on March 25, Thursday, at the J-Village training centre in Fukushima.

Tokyo

The "Grand Start" ceremony and the first section of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics torch relay on day one will not be open to the public (Representative Image).   -  AP

Tokyo Olympics organisers on Tuesday called on roadside spectators at the torch relay to wear masks and practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

They also said torch relay staff must test negative for the COVID-19 before being sent from Tokyo.

The 121-day torch relay is set to begin on March 25 at the J-Village training centre in Fukushima, launching the build-up towards the July 23 start of the Games, postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus.

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"People are fine to watch from the side of the road but when they do so we would like them to practice distancing and avoid crowds," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told a news conference.

"We want to ensure a safe torch relay not only for the runners, but for the people in the local communities who are kind enough to host it," he said.

Organisers have the unprecedented task of planning the world's biggest multi-sport event during a pandemic. They face tough decisions over whether to allow in overseas fans and how many spectators in general to let into venues.

The "Grand Start" ceremony and first section of the torch relay on day one will not be open to the public as the organisers decided to reduce the number of participants and simplify the programme.

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Underscoring the complications of planning for this year's Games, Japanese football player Nahomi Kawasumi said she will not take part in the torch relay after deciding to withdraw from the event last year due to the pandemic.

Kawasumi, who plays for Sky Blue FC in the U.S. Women's Professional Soccer League, had said just before the Games were postponed last year that she was withdrawing due to fears she could contract the virus or infect others.

"Again, I will decline to be a torch relay runner," Kawasumi tweeted on Monday.

"I made this decision because the infectious disease problem has not yet been resolved and I live in the United States," which has the world's highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.