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Fans, but no Cheering, for Olympic Torch Relay

Fans, but no Cheering, for Olympic Torch Relay

Thursday, 25 February, 2021 - 07:00
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa holds the torch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Spectators will be allowed to line the route when the Olympic flame begins its delayed relay across Japan next month, organisers said Thursday, but cheering will be strictly banned.


The torch relay was scrapped just days before it was due to kick off last year when Japanese and Olympic officials took the unprecedented decision to postpone Tokyo 2020 over the coronavirus pandemic.


Despite persistent concerns about the safety of holding the Games this summer, organizers say the massive event can go ahead and the torch relay will kick off as planned on March 25.


"The infection situation will vary from area to area, so we need to take that into account and it will be very important to have a meticulous approach," Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.


"We want to get the understanding of people in every area and connect the whole country under the torch relay concept 'Hope Lights Our Way'."


It will start from a symbolic site in Fukushima, highlighting the role of Tokyo 2020 in what Japan has dubbed the "Reconstruction Olympics" -- after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.


But the relay will be a much more sober affair than usual.


Spectators will be allowed to watch the flame pass, but will be required to wear masks, avoid crowding, and only attend segments of the relay near their home.


"They must support with applause or by using distributed goods rather than by shouting or cheering," guidelines warn, adding social distance must be maintained.


"Individual relay segments will be suspended if there is a risk of overcrowding," the guidelines add.


Attendance at celebration venues along portions of the route will be by reservation only to limit numbers, and information on which torchbearers will run which sections of the route will be released only at the last minute to avoid crowds gathering to watch celebrity runners.


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