he Olympic torch relay will begin on March 25 — a year and a day after the event was due to start in Japan.
The coronavirus pandemic saw the Games postponed until this summer and there were fears the rescheduled torch relay might be delayed or disrupted amid calls to cancel the games in Japan for good.
However, organisers said on Monday the start of the relay on March 25 will officially set in motion the build-up to the Games in July as and that they are continuing to work on Covid-19 counter-measures.
The Japanese women’s national soccer team will use the Olympic Flame to light the torch and kick off the relay from the J-Village training centre in Fukushima.
The Grand Start ceremony and first section of the relay on day one will not be open to the public as organisers reduce the number of participants and simplify the programme to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they said in a statement on Monday.
Tokyo 2020 “is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch relay by taking countermeasures to prevent the spread of any infections among spectators, torchbearers, staff, and other relay participants, as well as local residents”, the statement said.
Tokyo organisers have also said they want to decide before the start of the relay whether to allow foreign spectators into the country amid fears of a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
Underscoring the complications in preparing for the Games during the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 also said on Monday that test events for skateboarding and shooting have been postponed until May due to the impact on scheduling from the COVID-19 situation.
The J-Village was chosen as the starting point of the 121-day relay because it is a symbol of Japan’s reconstruction following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5
Additional reporting: Reuters