Torch relay in Osaka shifted from public roads to closed park

OSAKA — The portion of the Olympic torch relay planned for Osaka Prefecture next week will be held at the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park without spectators instead of being run on public roads, the Tokyo Games organizing committee said Wednesday.

Initially, about 200 torchbearers were supposed to run a total of 182 legs across the prefecture over Tuesday and Wednesday next week. However, the plan was scrapped in response to a request from the prefectural government.

The prefectural relay committee had informed the Olympic organizing committee on Monday that it would cancel only the portion of the relay in the city of Osaka, where pre-emergency priority measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections had been enforced. But since then, infections have continued to surge and the prefectural government issued a request that people across the prefecture refrain from nonessential and nonemergency outings from Thursday.

On Wednesday, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura informed Seiko Hashimoto, president of the organizing committee, and Tamayo Marukawa, minister for the Tokyo Games, that the prefecture was planning to cancel the torch relay for the entire prefecture.

As an alternative, the organizing committee will invite torchbearers who wish to still participate to Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in Suita city on Tuesday and Wednesday next week and conduct the relay there. The park will be closed to the public.

“If we hold the relay [on public roads], we’ll be creating a crowded situation, and we decided that this would be inappropriate,” Yoshimura said at a press conference Wednesday.

Speaking at a separate press conference, Toshiro Muto, director general of the organizing committee, said, “I think it’s important to continue the relay while taking realistic measures.”