The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics torch lighting ceremony will be held without spectators in Greece's ancient Olympia on Oct. 18 and the flame will depart for China the very next day, Greek officials have said.
The flame for each Olympic Games is traditionally lit by the rays of the sun and the use of a parabolic mirror in a ceremony at the site of the ancient Olympics, followed by a six-day relay across Greece before departing for the next host city.
But there will be no relay in Greece this time, with the flame being taken to Beijing on Oct. 19. There will also be no fans on the grassy slopes of the ancient stadium when the flame is lit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beijing will host the Games on Feb. 4-20.
The torch lighting ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in March last year was also held without crowds. The Games were eventually postponed by a year.
Following a meeting between Greek authorities this week, including police and the country's Olympic committee and Chinese Games organisers, it was decided to hold the ceremony in ancient Olympia without fans.
"The dangers posed by COVID-19 were taken into account in the decisions and the protocol for the event," Greece's citizen protection ministry said in a statement.
The flame will then be transported to the Athens Acropolis on Oct. 18 before being handed over to Chinese organisers a day later in a brief ceremony at Athens' Panathenaic stadium.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)