Tokyo Olympics: Torch lit at ceremony in Greece, relay begins despite coronavirus concerns

Despite the 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. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach referred to the current coronavirus situation as “difficult circumstances” but the organization is still committed to holding the Tokyo Olympics as planned this summer.

“Nineteen weeks before the opening ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world which are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” Bach said, according to the Associated Press.

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 spends a week traveling throughout Greece before it is ultimately delivered to Tokyo officials on March 19. A separate ceremony will take place at an ancient stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

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