Actresses rehearse for Olympic Games torch-lighting ceremony

Actresses rehearse for Olympic Games torch-lighting ceremony which will be held away from the public due to coronavirus, as Japan says cancelling Tokyo 2020 is ‘inconceivable’

  • Seiko Hashimoto said International Olympic Committee to make ‘final decision’ on whether Games go ahead
  • She added that from the ‘viewpoint of athletes who are the main protagonists’ a cancellation is ‘inconceivable’
  • Coronavirus epidemic has infected 581 and been linked to 12 deaths in Japan, with 119,000 cases globally

Actresses were today seen rehearsing for the Olympic Games torch-lighting ceremony which will be held away from the public due to coronavirus fears – as Japan said cancelling the 2020 Tokyo Games is ‘inconceivable’. 

The Greek Olympic Committee confirmed on Monday that the ceremony would be held without spectators after dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 across the western Peloponnese.

Only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 committee of the 700 initially invited will be allowed to attend Thursday’s event in Olympia, where the ancient Games were held.

Photographs from the dress rehearsal, which was also closed to the public, captured Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou as she held the torch of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.    

Around a dozen women stood behind her dressed in matching light blue dresses as they then carried the lit torch around the birthplace of the Olympic Games in a rehearsal of the procession. 

It comes as Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto it is ‘inconceivable to cancel or postpone’ the Tokyo 2020 Games, which are due to be held in the capital between July 24 and August 9.

Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou holds the torch of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games during the dress rehearsal of the flame lighting ceremony at the closed Ancient Olympia site in Greece

She added it would ultimately be left to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make a ‘final decision on the Games’ –  as the coronavirus epidemic raised fears the event could be scrapped.

‘From the viewpoint of athletes who are the main protagonists in the Tokyo Games, as they are making adjustments and preparations for this once-in-four-years event… it is inconceivable to cancel or postpone,’ Ms Hashimoto told a parliamentary committee.

‘We think it is important that the government gives correct information so that the IOC makes an appropriate decision.’  

The rapid spread of the virus, which has infected 581 people and been linked to 12 deaths in Japan, has cast a shadow over preparations for the 2020 summer Games.

The Greek Olympic Committee confirmed on Monday that the ceremony would be held without spectators after dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 across the western Peloponnese

Around a dozen women stood behind the torch dressed in matching light blue dresses as they then carried the lit torch around the birthplace of the Olympic Games in a rehearsal of the procession

Only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 committee of the 700 initially invited will be allowed to attend Thursday’s event in Olympia, where the ancient Games were held

In Greece, Olympia mayor Yiorgos Georgiopoulos said the move to ban spectators from the torch-lighting ceremony could have ‘disastrous’ consequences for locals, though the government has pledged to help cover financial losses.

‘The tourism high point at ancient Olympia is during this period,’ he said. ‘Room cancellations are multiplying and [tourism sector] professionals are desperate.’ 

The Greek health ministry last week announced a ‘suspension of all mass gatherings’ at theatres, cinemas, museums and sports events in the Peloponnese regions of Achaia and Elis and the island of Zakynthos through Friday.

In Greece, Olympia mayor Yiorgos Georgiopoulos said the move to ban spectators from the torch-lighting ceremony could have ‘disastrous’ consequences for locals

The Greek health ministry last week announced a ‘suspension of all mass gatherings’ at theatres, cinemas, museums and sports events in the Peloponnese regions of Achaia and Elis and the island of Zakynthos through Friday

Greek Olympic officials are holding a pared-down flame-lighting ceremony for the Tokyo Games due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus

The measures came after a 66-year-old man was hospitalised with the virus at a hospital in Patras, western Greece and remains in a critical condition. 

The patient was part of a group of Holy Land pilgrims who travelled to Israel and Egypt last month. Almost all developed the virus alongside several of their close contacts. Greece currently has 89 confirmed cases COVID-19. 

Japanese Olympic Minister Ms Hashimoto’s comments come after the Wall Street Journal quoted a member of the Tokyo organisers’ executive board as saying a delay of two years would be the most realistic option if the Games cannot be held this summer. 

‘We’ll have to start talking about this seriously from April,’ Haruyuki Takahashi told the Journal, adding the board has not yet discussed the issue. 

A man wearing a face mask walks past a 2020 summer Olympics advertisement in Tokyo in the tunnel of a metro station on Wednesday

The rapid spread of the virus, which has infected 581 people and been linked to 12 deaths in Japan, has cast a shadow over preparations for the 2020 Games

Asked about the report, Ms Hashimoto said she was told by organisers that they are preparing for the Games to go ahead as scheduled from July 24 to August 9. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers said they had ‘sought clarification’ from Takahashi.   

‘He stated he had inadvertently given his personal opinion in response to a hypothetical question,’ a statement said.

‘As IOC President Thomas Bach stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the organising committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games, and we are proceeding with our preparations for a safe and secure Games opening on 24 July 2020 as planned.’

Tokyo Disney parks extend closure until early April amid coronavirus

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will remain closed throughout early April over growing fears of a coronavirus outbreak.

Oriental Land, the operator of the parks, added today that openings of new zones and attractions which were scheduled for April 15 will also be postponed until mid-May.

The announcement came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a 10-day extension of measures intended to halt the spread of COVID-19, including cancelling, delaying or scaling back major events.

Oriental Land originally closed the two Disney theme parks from February 29 with a plan to reopen from March 16. 

Tokyo Disneyland (pictured) and DisneySea will remain closed throughout early April over growing fears of a coronavirus outbreak

‘We are planning our resumption time for early April, but we will make an announcement at a later time,’ the company said in a statement.

‘The opening of Tokyo Disneyland’s major development area, which was scheduled for April 15, has been rescheduled to mid-May or later.’

More than 30 million visitors flood into the two parks each year, which are among the most popular destinations for tourists in Tokyo.

Abe has made a nationwide plea for the public to help halt the spread of the coronavirus, urging schools to close through early April and telling businesses to encourage commuters to work from home or avoid rush hour trains.

A panel of experts is expected to meet next week to assess the effectiveness of those measures.

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