18:41 GMT25 January 2021
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    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers for the 2020 Olympic Games had been considering the possibility of outright canceling the historic tournament’s torch relay over cost and safety concerns; however, the idea was subsequently scrapped by committee officials.

    Organizers for the 2020 Tokyo Games announced Tuesday that the sports tournament’s torch relay will take place as originally planned and will begin next year on March 25 - in exactly 100 days - in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima.

    After starting the journey in Fukushima’s J-Village National Training Center, the torch will be passed from bearer to bearer through a total of 859 municipalities across the country’s 47 prefectures before arriving at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23 for the start of the games.

    In an effort to further promote the looming start of the Olympic games, officials organized a “special illumination” of the Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting and observation tower that holds the title of world’s tallest tower, measuring 2,080 feet.

    The Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan, is illuminated with the color of the Olympic Torch, to commemorate 100 days until the torch relay begins, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Tokyo.
    © AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko
    The Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan, is illuminated with the color of the Olympic Torch, to commemorate 100 days until the torch relay begins, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Tokyo.

    The 121-day relay will involve an estimated 10,000 torch bearers in addition to the tens of thousands of officials who will be working to make sure the event runs smoothly and stays in line with COVID-19 countermeasures.

    Yukihiko Nunomura, vice director general of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said during an online news conference that “social distancing will be considered at the gathering spots and the Torch kiss scenes.”

    “We want to simplify the program as much as possible and have been trying to minimize the number of vehicles and also the spectators,” he added, before underscoring that the group intends to “maximize our efforts to prevent the COVID-19 spread and take sufficient countermeasures."

    Although organizers have largely kept mum on the specific details of the preventive measures being considered to ensure athletes and game officials do not contract the respiratory disease, reports suggest that masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing and open ventilation will be at the core of the regulations imposed by organizers. 

    The Olympic Channel revealed in early December that athletes competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games will undergo a COVID-19 test at least every four days and have their movements traced via a phone app throughout their stay in Japan.

    Additional details regarding the measures are not expected to be released until early next year. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told the Associated Press during a Monday interview that the emerging COVID-19 vaccines are serving as “a ray of hope.”

    Earlier announcements from the games’ organizing committee and the Japanese government revealed that the historic postponement of the tournament would cost officials nearly $3 billion, the majority of which will go to implementing COVID-19 countermeasures.


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