Strict guidelines for participants of Olympic torch relay

Spectators will be allowed to line the route when the Olympic flame begins its delayed relay across Japan next month, organisers said yesterday, but cheering will be strictly banned.

The torch relay was scrapped just days before it was due to kick off last year, when Japanese and Olympic officials took the unprecedented decision to postpone Tokyo 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite concerns about the safety of holding the Games from July 23 to Aug 8, organisers said the massive event can go ahead and the torch relay will kick off as planned on March 25, with an itinerary that includes all 47 prefectures in Japan.

"The infection situation will vary from area to area, so we need to take that into account and it will be very important to have a meticulous approach," said Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto.

"We want to get the understanding of people in every area and connect the whole country under the torch relay concept 'Hope Lights Our Way'."

The torch relay will start from a symbolic site in Fukushima, highlighting the role of Tokyo 2020 in what Japan has dubbed the "Reconstruction Olympics" - after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Spectators will be allowed to watch the flame pass, but will be required to wear masks, avoid crowding and attend only segments of the relay near their home. Cheering is banned, but spectators can show their support by applauding.

"Individual relay segments will be suspended if there is a risk of overcrowding," the guidelines add. To avoid that, access to the route will be by reservation only.

Information on which torchbearers will run which sections will be released only at the last minute to avoid celebrity runners drawing large crowds.

Torchbearers will be able to run without masks, but both runners and staff will have to keep detailed health records in the two weeks before their participation, and avoid risky activities, including eating out or going to crowded places.

Organisers said the relay will not be automatically stopped if a runner who has taken part tests positive later, and that the "basic policy" is to continue unless there is a large-scale cluster.

Separately, the International Olympic Committee said that Brisbane was the preferred candidate to host the 2032 Games and said it would enter "targeted dialogue" with bid organisers. - AFP