Safety Measures Added for Torch Relay

Also: Decision on whether overseas spectators will be able to attend Tokyo 2020 could come on March 22.

(ATR) Tokyo 2020 officials have released additional countermeasures and procedures to ensure a safe and incident-free Olympic Torch Relay.

A COVID-19 response team led by Tokyo 2020 CEO Muto Toshiro revealed further details and instructions for the public to follow along the route of the Olympic Torch Relay, which begins on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture. Four prefectures in and around Tokyo remain under a state of emergency due to COVID-19 until at least March 21.

While spectators are encouraged to come out to see the Olympic flame pass thorough their neighborhoods, it was stressed that they should maintain physical distancing, avoid clusters and watch the proceedings from near their residences. A lead vehicle will monitor the crowd situation and consult with authorities, in addition to announcing instructions to the public as necessary.

"The most important point - we would like people to refrain from watching the Olympic Torch Relay in a crowded situation alongside the streets, so please ensure that you have physical distance from everyone else." Muto said during a news conference on Tuesday.

"The second point – please ensure that you take care of your health, health management and screening."

Tokyo 2020 games delivery officer Nakamura Hidemasainformed that organizers have carried out safety drills on public roads in preparation for the relay. Nakamura attempted to explain what exactly constitutes an area that is deemed overcrowded where additional measures need to be implemented.

"The definition of dense crowd is difficult to define, but we need a judgment criteria to send out precautions," Nakamura said. "If spectators are crowded where shoulders touch in multiple rows, we need to send out requests saying they need to be scattered.

"If the congestion is deemed dangerous then we will cooperate with the local police.

"If still the dense congestion is not resolved, we will send out precautions saying we have no choice but to stop the relay or skip some of the legs."

Nakamura said there will be a constant flow of information between Tokyo 2020 officials, municipal and prefecture authorities, and the general public on a daily basis. Press conference will be held for media over the course of the first ten days of the relay and the public will be updated daily on all news and precautions via the Tokyo 2020 website.

"As we go, we may find the necessity to change the rules or operations regarding the situation with the pandemic or as local situations change," Nakamura said.

"We’ll be flexible and we’ll ensure a sufficient level of communication."

Health management, safety and screening procedures for the approximately 300 Torch Relay staff members was also discussed extensively, with Muto noting that organizers are prepared to replace any staff who may test positive for COVID along the route.

The Torch Relay begins at the J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima Prefecture before passing through all 47 prefectures and some 857 local municipalities over the ensuing 121 days.

Decision on Spectators Could Come Monday

A high-level meeting of Tokyo 2020 stakeholders is being arranged for March 22, according to Kyodo News.

It is reported that the issue of whether to allow overseas spectators for the Games is expected to be high on the agenda. Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko has repeatedly said that a decision on the matter would be made before the start of the Torch Relay on March 25.

Kyodo reports that Hashimoto would be joined by IOC President Thomas Bach, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and Olympic minister Marukawa Tamayo for the meeting.

Bach late last week said that Japan has the final say on whether overseas fans will be allowed.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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