The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia will be the first in more than 35 years to be held without spectators, after organisers introduced tighter measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The announcement made by Greece’s Olympic Committee on Monday said spectators would be excluded from both the dress rehearsal at the ancient site on Wednesday and the widely broadcast ceremony on Thursday.
“The lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame will be done without the presence of spectators and only 100 invited and accredited guests,” the Greek Olympic Committee said in a statement.
This is the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics that the ceremony will be held without any spectators.
The Olympic torch will be lit in Olympia at a scaled-down ceremony on March 12 before a seven-day relay that culminates with a handover ceremony in Greece on March 19.
The number of people inside the ancient stadium will also be reduced with only a few dozen representatives of the Tokyo Games from a group of about 150 allowed access to the ceremony.
The Mayor of Olympia Giorgos Georgiopoulos, also wrote a letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, proposing the postponement of the ceremony until May.
“The danger of staging the torch lighting with only a handful of spectators, limited number of officials and delegations, and under a cloud of fear and concern will damage the greatness and prestige of this event,” Georgiopoulos stated in the letter.
“With a sense of responsibility, the municipal authority, all parties of the city council of Ancient Olympia, in order to secure the global radiance of the event asks the IOC which has the exclusive responsibility of organising it to consider the possibility of moving the torch lighting ceremony to May of this year,” he added.
The International Olympic Committee affirmed the Tokyo 2020 Games would go ahead as planned.