Olympic Flame Ceremony to Take Place Without Fans Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Changes are being made to the ceremonies that lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to concerns over COVID-19. The expectation is that the actual games will proceed as planned in July, but an important event in Greece is being altered. The Greek Olympics Committee announced on Tuesday that the torch handover ceremony will take place without fans in attendance.

The committee announced that the accreditation cards for Thursday's ceremony at the site of the original 1896 Summer Olympic Games will no longer be valid. The torch handover event will still take place at the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens. Additionally, the committee's headquarters will remain closed from Monday until further notice.

The torch relay has been a critical part of the pre-games process, but the remainder has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The decision was made following crowds gathering in Sparta to watch actor Gerard Butler carry the torch.

There are currently 352 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Greece, as well as four deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Greek health authorities have recommended social distancing to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and have closed down beaches, nightclubs, restaurants, and movie theaters.

There have been concerns about the 2020 Toyko Games being potentially canceled due to coronavirus concerns, but the current plan is for the highly-anticipated event to proceed. Although International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound did say that a decision could be made as late as May.

"In and around that time, I'd say folks are going to have to ask: 'Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?'" Pound said, adding that as the games get closer, "a lot of things have to start happening. You've got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios."

Pound told the athletes that they should continue training in anticipation of taking part in the upcoming Olympic Games. However, he did clarify that cancellation would occur if they could not be held in Tokyo.

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"As far as we all know, you're going to be in Tokyo," Pound said. "All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation."

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