Olympic flame arrives in town with low-key ceremony and no spectators-Sports News, Firstpost

Tokyo 2020 organizers and government officials announced on Thursday evening their decision to ban fans from Olympic events in the capital, which will be subject to a viral emergency throughout the Games.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (left) receives a lantern containing the Olympic flame from Aki Taguchi, official ambassador of the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay. PA

Tokyo: The Olympic flame arrived in Tokyo on Friday, but the public were kept out in a low-key welcoming ceremony due to coronavirusOlympic flame arrives in town with low-key ceremony and no spectators-Sports News, Firstpost feared, in the wake of a “heartbreaking” announcement that spectators would be banned from most Games events.

On a rainy morning exactly two weeks before the opening ceremony of the biggest sporting event since the start of the pandemic, the flame was taken on stage in a lantern and handed over to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

Tokyo 2020 organizers and government officials announced on Thursday evening their decision to ban fans from Olympic events in the capital, which will be subject to a viral emergency throughout the Games.

This means that the postponed pandemic Games will be the first to take place largely behind closed doors. A handful of competitions will take place outside the capital.

The torch relay was supposed to generate excitement for the Games, but it has been pulled from public roads in the capital to prevent crowds from spreading the virus as infections rise.

Before the torch arrived, five costume-clad male trumpeters played a catchy tune under a gazebo to shield them from the drizzle, in front of only reporters and a handful of officials.

The stands were empty at the stadium in Komazawa Olympic Park in the south-eastern suburb of the capital, which was used during the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

“I am happy that we are hosting the Torch Relay, with these legacies that we proudly show at home and abroad,” said Koike.

But the governor of Tokyo, who was recently hospitalized with exhaustion, coughed three times during her brief speech and several more after that.

Friday’s event gave a taste of the mood that could await athletes at the opening ceremony, which will be held at the National Stadium downtown.

The move to ban fans came after the government said a state of emergency would be imposed on Tokyo throughout the Games to curb a rebound in infections and fears over the more infectious Delta variant.

On Thursday night, Koike couldn’t hide his disappointment at not having fans at the Games.

“I feel heartbreaking grief about this decision,” she said.

When the 2020 Games were postponed last year as the scale of the pandemic became clear, there was talk that they would be staged as proof the world had defeated the virus.

But that triumphant tone has given way to the harsh reality of new outbreaks of infection and more contagious variants, including the Delta strain that has led to resurgences of the virus in many countries.

The national torch relay has been fraught with pitfalls since its launch in March, with nearly half of the legs disrupted in one way or another.

The relay was forced to leave public roads in famous tourist cities such as Kyoto and Hiroshima over fears crowds of fans would spread the virus.

And it has also encountered some public opposition, with a 53-year-old woman arrested on Sunday for squirting fluid from a water pistol at a runner.

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