TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics organisers said on Monday (Mar 15) the torch relay would begin on Mar 25 from the J-Village training centre in Fukushima, as planned, setting into motion the build-up towards the opening of the Games four months later.
The Grand Start ceremony and first section of the relay on day 1 will not be open to the public as organisers reduce the number of participants and simplify the programme to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, organisers said in a statement.
Tokyo 2020 "is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch relay by taking countermeasures to prevent the spread of any infections among spectators, torchbearers, staff, and other relay participants, as well as local residents," the statement said.
About 3,000 spectators had been expected to attend the relay's starting ceremony.
Fukushima prefecture last week marked the 10th anniversary of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that left 18,500 dead or missing.
The torch relay has long been planned to start on Mar 25 but is nevertheless a major milestone after the Games were postponed last year and following speculation over whether they should be delayed again or even cancelled due to the pandemic.
Tokyo organisers have also said they want to decide before the start of the relay whether to allow foreign spectators into the country amid fears of a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
Underscoring the complications in preparing for the Games during the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 also said on Monday that test events for skateboarding and shooting have been postponed until May due to the impact on scheduling from the COVID-19 situation.
Members of the Japanese women's national football team will use the Olympic Flame to light the torch to officially kick off the relay from J-Village.
The facility was chosen as the starting point of the 121-day relay because it is a symbol of Japan's reconstruction following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The Olympics will be held from Jul 23 to Aug 8 and the Paralympics from Aug 24 to Sep 5.