The relay for the Olympic torch in Tokyo will not move on the streets of Osaka prefecture next week due to the growing cases of COVID-19.
The move was a failure for Tokyo organizers, who started the relay two weeks ago in northeastern Fukushima prefecture with 10,000 runners planning to cross Japan for four months.
The Olympic Games open for a little over 100 days on July 23.
In a last-minute change of plans, organizers said in a statement Wednesday that runners and the torch would be involved in an event in Osaka City Park in the days when the relay had to run across the prefecture. This was supposed to be April 13-14.
“Given the circumstances, the prefecture authorities in Osaka today asked Tokyo 2020 to hold the Osaka segment of the Olympic torch relay in the Expo ’70 memorial park, not on public roads,” a statement from Tokyo organizers said.
The statement said the Osaka segment would be held in the park “for all torchbearers who wish to flee there.”
It is also said that “no spectators” will be admitted every day.
The track relay test is reminiscent of the gigantic problems that are likely when the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are held with a total of 15,400 athletes from more than 200 countries entering Japan. They will be joined by tens of thousands of other officials, judges, media and television operators.
Fans from abroad are banned and it is not yet clear how many local fans will be able to attend the Olympic events. Tokyo Organizing Committee Chairman Seiko Hashimoto promised a decision on the hall’s capacity this month, but hinted last week that the announcement could be postponed.
Ticket sales were expected to generate $ 800 million in revenue for organizers, a large but small amount compared to the official $ 15.4 billion Olympics bill, most of which went to Japanese taxpayers.
Osaka Prefecture Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura asked people on Wednesday not to make unnecessary trips to the area.
“Medical systems (in Osaka) are on the verge of collapse,” Yoshimura told a news conference, attributing the rapid jump in infections to new variants of the virus. “Obviously it spreads faster and is more contagious.”
About 70% of available hospital beds in Osaka are already occupied, officials said.
Osaka announced 719 new cases on Tuesday and more than 800 are expected on Wednesday, both exceeding the total for Tokyo. But there are also fears that the jump will be seen soon in Tokyo.
The spread of the vaccine is extremely slow in Japan, with very few people expected to be vaccinated when the Olympics begin. Japan attributes about 9,300 deaths to COVID-19, which is good by world standards but bad by standards in most Asian countries.