Olympic flame lighting ceremony to be held under virus lock

OLIMPIA, GREECE: Coronavirus Fears and a local outbreak of the deadly disease are forcing authorities to take unprecedented action on Thursday. Olympic flame lighting ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Games .

After dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 in the wider western Peloponnese, the Greek olympic committee on Monday he said the ceremony would be held without spectators.

Only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, compared to 700 originally, will be able to attend Thursday's event in Olympia, where the ancient Games were held.

And a general rehearsal for Wednesday will also be closed to the public.

The committee had previously canceled all dinners and galas at the event.

In 1984, the Greek leg of the torch relay was scrapped in a protest by Greek organizers against the commercialization of the Los Angeles Olympics.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis canceled the visit plans, but the state will be represented by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, one day before his term ends.

Olympia Mayor Yiorgos Georgiopoulos said the move has disastrous consequences for local operators, although the government has promised to help cover financial losses.

The highest point of tourism in ancient Olympia is during this period, the mayor told AFP. Room cancellations multiply and professionals (in the tourism sector) are desperate, he said.

The Greek health ministry announced last week a suspension of all mass gatherings in theaters, cinemas, museums and sporting events in the Peloponnese regions of Achaia and Elis and the island of Zakynthos until Friday.

The measures came after a 66-year-old man was hospitalized with the virus in a hospital in Patras, west of Greece.

He remains in critical condition. The patient was part of a group of pilgrims from the Holy Land who traveled to Israel and Egypt last month.

Almost everyone developed the virus, as did several of their close contacts.

The flame for Tokyo 2020 is scheduled to light with a traditional ceremony and after a torch relay in Greece it will be delivered to Tokyo organizers in another ceremony on March 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

In a statement, Tokyo 2020 said it would reduce the size of its traveling delegation as much as possible.

The torch relay in Greece will pass through 37 cities and 15 archaeological sites that will cover 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) and 842 nautical miles (1,559.4 km) and will be transported by 600 runners.

Greek Olympic shooting champion Anna Korakaki will be the first torchbearer, the first time a woman has been chosen to fulfill the role.

Korakaki has called the assignment an immense honor and says she hopes to be the first in a long list of women to do the same.