(ATR) Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torchbearers are asked to wear masks but will be permitted to run without them if sufficient distance from spectators, organizers and fellow participants can be maintained
The regulation is one of many COVID-19 countermeasures announced by Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay organizers on Thursday, as the Olympic flame’s journey is scheduled to begin in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25. The date marks the 10th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
After the flame passes through the regions affected by the disaster, it will journey across all corners of Japan, arriving in Tokyo on July 9, two weeks ahead of the July 23 opening ceremony.
"Hope Lights Our Way" is the theme of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay. Some 10,000 torchbearers are expected to bring the flame across all 47 prefectures over the course of 121 days. Each torchbearer will run approximately 200 meters.
Infection countermeasures put in place concern all stakeholders and local citizens, including torchbearers, spectators and operations staff. The same countermeasures, in principle, will be adapted for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Torch Relay.
The primary countermeasure and guiding principle to ensure health and safety is avoidance of the 3C’s – closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings. In the event of heavy overcrowding, organizers can suspend the Torch Relay.
Torch Relay organizers also released timeframes for announcing torchbearers and confirming municipalities and prefectures that the relay will visit. The complete list of participants is still to be finalized, although those confirmed before the Games postponement will be given priority.
March 2 is the target date for confirming departure and arrival locations, related times, and detailed route map information. Details will be published on the Tokyo 2020 website.
General public viewing the proceedings from the roadside are mandated to wear masks and asked to watch from the vicinity of their residence. Additionally, spectators are asked to support the runners only by clapping or using provided goods, rather than shouting or cheering, in order to prevent the spread of droplets.
"Spectators are encouraged to attend as long at there is not overcrowding on the roadside," a Tokyo 2020 official informed media during a briefing originating from Tokyo on Thursday. "Masks need to be worn and no yelling or shouting."
Live roadside views of the Torch Relay will be streamed on the Tokyo 2020 website as an additional measure to prevent large gatherings and overcrowding.
Torchbearers will not be required to test negative prior to running but they will be asked to adhere to a strict set of precautions to prevent infection, including the monitoring of their movement and actions in the two weeks leading up to their moment. They are asked to refrain from dining out and to avoid crowded places, in addition to submitting a daily health checklist.
Rigorous measures and specific precautions will be taken for celebrity torchbearers, including having them run in locations where fans and crowding can be reduced. International runners – approximately 300 are expected – will not receive preferential treatment and will be subject to standard immigration policies upon entering Japan.
Torchbearers, stakeholders and media will be prohibited from revealing torchbearer running slotsIn order to avoid potential crowding along the road.
Those undergoing PCR testing after consultation from a health center or clinic, after experiencing symptoms, must notify Tokyo 2020 immediately. Depending upon the test result outcome, the required actions will be taken.
On their day of carrying the torch, participants will have temperatures taken, will be monitored for any significant COVID-19 symptoms and they must submit a health checklist.
Similar countermeasures will be in place for some 400-500 organizers and operational staff across the route. There will also be similar measures enforced during Torch Relay celebrations and departure celebrations in the Japanese prefectures.
The various health situations will be monitored across the 47 prefectures and decisions or contingency plans taken as necessary.
In the event of significant overcrowding at a ceremony venue or if a state of emergency is declared in a hosting prefecture, suspension of the Torch Relay along public roads or staging a lighting ceremony without spectators may be initiated.
Written by Brian Pinelli