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Olympics-Tokyo 2020 torch relay to start March 25 in Fukushima

Pedestrians wearing masks walk past the emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on a wall of Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, 28 February 2020. Organizers of the 2020 tokyo Olympics stated that planning for the games, scheduled to begin 24 July, is going ahead as scheduled. Recently, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) inferred that organizers would have until late May to make a decision in regards to whether to postpone the games, yet this deadline and general statement has been disputed by the Tokyo Organizing Committee and other members of the IOC. There have been concerns that the games will be affected by the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo: EPA-EFE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA)

TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) - Tokyo Olympics organisers said the torch relay would begin on March 25 from the J-Village training centre in Fukushima, as planned, launching the build-up to the start of the Games in July as they continue to work on COVID-19 counter-measures.

By Chris Gallagher

The Grand Start ceremony and first section of the relay on day one will not be open to the public as organisers reduce the number of participants and simplify the programme to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they said in a statement on Monday.

Tokyo 2020 “is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch relay by taking countermeasures to prevent the spread of any infections among spectators, torchbearers, staff, and other relay participants, as well as local residents”, the statement said.

The torch relay has long been planned to start on March 25 but is nevertheless a major milestone after the Games were postponed last year and following speculation over whether they should be delayed again or even cancelled due to the pandemic.

Tokyo organisers have also said they want to decide before the start of the relay whether to allow foreign spectators into the country amid fears of a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Underscoring the complications in preparing for the Games during the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 also said on Monday that test events for skateboarding and shooting have been postponed until May due to the impact on scheduling from the COVID-19 situation.

Members of the Japanese women’s national soccer team will use the Olympic Flame to light the torch to officially kick off the relay from J-Village.

The facility was chosen as the starting point of the 121-day relay because it is a symbol of Japan’s reconstruction following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Olympics will be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. (Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Catherine Evans and Ed Osmond)

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