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Olympic torch relay scaled back, but fans can watch from roadside

Tokyo 2020 organisers said yesterday they had taken the "heartbreaking" decision to scale back parts of the Olympic torch relay due to the coronavirus, but stressed that spectators would still be allowed to watch from the roadside.

Chief executive Toshiro Muto said the "grand start" of the torch relay from the disaster-hit Fukushima province would take place without spectators "in order to prevent the spread of infections".

Ceremonies to mark the flame's arrival at its final destination each day, as well as departure ceremonies, will also take place without fans.

Spectators who are feeling unwell will be asked not to watch from the roadside and torch-bearers with high temperatures will be barred from taking part, organisers said.

"Please be careful to avoid forming crowds," they urged, saying the programme could be changed in the event of "excessive congestion".

The moves come as doubts increase whether the Games can open as planned on July 24, with the coronavirus decimating the global sports calendar, including Olympic qualifiers, and curtailing international travel.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier yesterday that Group of Seven leaders had agreed to support a "complete" Olympics, but dodged questions about whether any of the leaders had brought up the possibility of postponement.

Last night, the International Olympic Committee said it is not planning any "drastic" decisions about the Games, saying it remains fully committed. - AFP

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