Parts of Nagano torch relay to exclude spectators

Spectators will be excluded from some parts of the torch relay in Nagano City on April 1, including a finish-line ceremony, due to the worsening COVID-19 situation, the Tokyo Games organizing committee and the Nagano prefectural government said Tuesday.

This will be the second time for the torch relay to be held partly without spectators. The starting ceremony and the first section of the relay from the ceremony site were held without spectators in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25.

In Nagano, no spectators will be allowed in the 100-meter section of Zenkoji Nakamise-dori street where the first and second torchbearers will run, according to the prefectural government. The decision was made because the narrowness of the street makes it likely that spectators would crowd the roadside.

Prefectural officials and security guards will be stationed in and around the section so that only residents and people related to stores on the street will be present until the torchbearers finish the section.

The other sections of the relay will be held with spectators as scheduled, but the prefectural government is calling for the elderly and those with existing illnesses to refrain from viewing the event in person.

The ending ceremony planned at Nagano city hall, where there will be a finish line for the relay in the city, had been prepared to accept 600 spectators by reservation only, but the organizing committee and the prefectural government decided that no spectators will be allowed.

A total of 201 new cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed in the prefecture over the week to Monday with slightly more than 50% of the figure, or 106 cases, confirmed in Nagano City. Given this, the prefectural government raised its own alert level, which indicates the infection status on a six-point scale, to five, the second most severe.