Tokyo Olympics: Torch relay through Greece canceled amid coronavirus outbreak

The flame-lighting for the 2020 Olympics took place in Greece during a ceremony on Thursday at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games. There, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach referred to the current coronavirus situation as "difficult circumstances" but insisted that the organization is still committed to holding the Tokyo Olympics as planned this summer.

On Friday, just 24 hours later, the Hellenic Olympic Committee announced that the COVID-19 outbreak has prompted the cancellation of the torch relay through Greece.

"This is even more regrettable after the huge success of the relay during its first two days with big crowds gathering along the route and at the ceremonies," the HOC said in a statement on Friday.

Tokyo organizers do plan to communicate with several communities in Japan and begin the relay within the country on March 26. As of right now, the IOC is still urging athletes to prepare for the Olympics as though they will happen as planned, from July 24 to August 9. The lighting ceremony had a much smaller crowd of officials than it normally does, due to coronavirus precautions. The event was closed to fans. 

As the 2020 Olympics draw closer, Bach noted he believes organizers have taken "excellent" preparations

"We are grateful to the Japanese people who are embracing these Games with such enthusiasm," Bach said. "Our Japanese friends are interpreting the noble mission of the Olympic Games in an outstanding way."

The flame was originally supposed to spend a week traveling all over Greece before it would've been ultimately delivered to Tokyo officials on March 19. A separate ceremony would've taken place at an ancient stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

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