Torch relay’s departure ceremony to be spectator-free

The organizing committee for the Tokyo Games is planning on holding a spectator-free departure ceremony for the torch relay, according to sources.

The relay will start on March 25 from J-Village, a soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture.

The decision was made to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading among crowds at the ceremony’s venue.

According to the organizing committee and others, J-Village was chosen as the relay’s starting point because it is a base for recovery work after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake. J-Village also matches the government-promoted concept of “Olympics for Reconstuction.”

At the departure ceremony, dubbed “Grand Start,” the torch will be lit for the first time with the Olympic flame brought to Japan from Greece last year.

Prior to the postponement of the Tokyo Games, the prime minister and the governor of Tokyo were scheduled to attend the ceremony with about 3,000 spectators from the general public. The event was to feature a chorus of local children as well as traditional stage performances.

However, as dense crowds could form at a time when infections have not been brought under control, it was decided that events related to the ceremony would be drastically scaled back and that limited audience numbers would be set.

Following the opening event, spectators will be allowed to view torch bearers running on public roads as long as attendees do so within the prefecture where they reside. The organizing committee is asking that spectators maintain physical distance, wear masks, and clap instead of cheer.

Furthermore, spectators will be able to watch the torch’s arrival ceremony held at the end of each day, but only if reservations are made. The number of such spectators will be limited.

The torch relay will be carried out by about 10,000 bearers over 121 days. It will travel through 859 municipalities across Japan. It will be lit on the torch stand at the National Stadium during the opening ceremony on July 23.