Amid mass cancellations of U.S. and European sporting events on Thursday, the Olympic flame lighting continued in Greece.
A day later, the Greek leg of the torch relay has been canceled.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee announced the spread of COVID-19 has prompted it, in consultation with the Greek ministry of health, to cancel the Olympic flame’s journey in the country. It will still complete the handover to Tokyo 2020 organizers but with no public in attendance.
“This is even more regrettable after the huge success of the relay during its first two days with big crowds gathering along the route and at the ceremonies,” the HOC said in a statement.
Tokyo organizers said they will work with municipalities in Japan and plan to begin the relay there on March 26.
In a statement, Tokyo 2020 reiterated that it will continue to work with the International Olympic Committee to open the Games as planned on July 24.
Efforts to address COVID-19 have led to unprecedented disruption in the sports world over the past several weeks. Since Wednesday, the NBA, NHL and MLS have all suspended their seasons. The NCAA canceled all championships for this year, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. And the Masters and Boston Marathon have been postponed.
The IOC has repeatedly stated that it is coordinating with the World Health Organization, as well as government officials in Tokyo and Japan, as it prepares to open the Olympics as scheduled. While sports and government officials have suggested the Games might need to be postponed or canceled, the IOC has said it would not address those in an attempt to avoid speculation.
Speaking at the lighting ceremony in Olympia on Thursday, president Thomas Bach said, “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.”
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