Japan bars children from Olympic torch ceremonies over virus
Organising committee head Yoshiro Mori called it a “heartbreaking decision” to cancel a performance of 140 children at the handover ceremony in Athens.
The announcement comes after organisers said they may have to scale back the torch relay and limit spectators because of concerns overspreading the deadly COVID-19.
“A performance by 140 children was scheduled at the handover ceremony in Athens on the 19th (of March), but we’ll put the utmost priority on the safety of children and cancel their trip,” Mori told reporters.
The Olympic flame is set to arrive in Japan on March 20 but about 200 children will also have to miss the welcoming ceremony in Miyagi prefecture.
The torch will then embark on a nationwide relay starting in Fukushima, a disaster zone just nine years ago after an earthquake-triggered tsunami swamped a nuclear plant and sent its reactors into meltdown.
Organisers have been scrambling to give assurances that the Olympics, from July 24 to August 9, remain on track despite the international outbreak of COVID-19.
The International Olympic Committee insisted this week that a potential cancellation or postponement of the Games due to the virus was “not mentioned” at a meeting of their executive board.
Japanese sports events from sumo to football have been cancelled or moved behind closed doors as the outbreak grows, with 97,000 infections and more than 3,300 deaths in some 85 countries.
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