Greece cancels Olympic torch relay
over coronavirus fears
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[March 14, 2020]
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's
Olympic Committee said it had canceled the remainder of the Olympic
Torch relay through the country on Friday to avoid attracting crowds
that could raise the risk of coronavirus contagion.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay got under way on Thursday when
the flame was lit by the rays of the sun in ancient Olympia in a
ceremony that was scaled down in the face of the coronavirus
The flame's journey in Greece had been due to last seven days. On
Friday it arrived in the Peloponnese town of Sparta, where Hollywood
actors Billy Zane and Gerard Butler, star of the 2009 movie "300",
also ran as a torchbearers.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch as the torch passed through.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee said the opening leg of the relay had
attracted unexpectedly high crowds, forcing it to suspend the
remaining stops after consultations with the Greek Health Ministry
and the International Olympic Committee.
The handover of the flame to the Tokyo Games organizers will take
place as scheduled in the Greek capital Athens on March 19 - without
"I hope it carries on. There was a time, when, you know, in the
ancient days, all wars would stop for the Olympics," Zane told
"It feels like we're at war collectively and the common enemy is
corona. And it felt like perhaps for maybe even just this morning,
the war stopped and some healing could occur."
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US actor Gerard Butler lights an altar as he takes part in the
Olympic flame torch relay for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics
By late Friday, Greece had registered 190 confirmed cases of
coronavirus and one death.
The Japanese Olympic Committee said it will continue to collaborate
closely with all relevant organizations to ensure the torch relay
begins safely on March 26 and for a secure opening of the 2020 Games
"Tokyo 2020 will bring the Olympic Flame back to Japan," it said.
"The IOC and Tokyo 2020 ... will continue to stay in close
collaboration with all relevant organizations as we prepare to
deliver a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games opening on 24 July 2020
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Hanna Rantala and Antoni Slodkowski;
Editing by Mark Heinrich and Toby Davis)
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