Tokyo Games Committee Announces COVID-19 Measures for Olympic Torch Relay

The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee announced on Thursday its measures against the novel coronavirus for the Olympic torch relay, which is scheduled to start in a month’s time.

Spectators will be asked to cheer on the runners by clapping. Those who want to watch the event at each day’s start and finish will need to book in advance in an effort to avoid crowding.

The committee will allow spectators to watch the runners along the route provided they take thorough preventive measures against infection, but reserved judgment on whether to let the relay participants run on public roads in the areas where people are asked to refrain from making nonessential, nonurgent outings.

“The infection situation varies depending on the prefecture, so we need to make finely tuned responses,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the committee.

According to sources close to the Games, relay participants will need to refrain from dining out with others and avoid crowds for two weeks before they run. They must check their health every day, receive a medical test if they have a temperature or other symptoms, and withdraw from the relay if they test positive for the virus.

When someone from a prefecture where a state of emergency or other advisory is declared takes part in the torch relay in another prefecture, the person can be tested at the committee’s expense even if he or she is showing no symptoms of COVID-19.

When a torch relay runner passes the Olympic flame to the next runner by touching their torches together, they will do so side by side, not facing each other. As relay participants also include celebrities such as entertainers and athletes, the committee is considering having them run inside a stadium or other such venue where admission can be restricted so that there won’t be a rush of spectators on the road.

Spectators will be required to wear masks, be it along the road or inside the venue of the Olympic torch ceremony, and to cheer the runners on by clapping, not shouting. In case crowding occurs, canceling the torch relay midway will be an option.

In areas where a state of emergency or other requests are issued, the committee is considering avoiding public roads for the event and carrying out the passing of the torch ceremony without spectators.

The torch relay will start from J-Village, a soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture, on March 25. The relay route then goes through all 47 prefectures before ending at the National Stadium in Tokyo.