Olympic flame arrives in Tokyo following ban on spectators

Low-key ceremony in capital on Friday as health concerns persist

The mood in Tokyo was sombre as the Olympic flame arrived Japan's capital following announcement that spectators would be banned from most Games events.

On a rainy Friday two weeks before the opening ceremony, the flame was brought on stage in a lantern and handed to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike.

Tokyo 2020 organisers announced on Thursday their decision to bar fans from Olympic events in the capital, which will be under a virus emergency throughout the event.

It means the Tokyo Games will be the first to take place largely behind closed doors, with a handful of events taking place outside the capital.

The torch relay began in March. However, a rise in infections forced the Tokyo city government to pull the Olympic torch relay off the streets, allowing it only on remote islands off the capital’s coast.

The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement stalled the IOC’s income flow. It gets almost 75 per cent from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose $3-4 billion if the Olympics were canceled altogether.

About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, along with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters and media.

Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15 per cent of Japan's population is fully vaccinated, still low compared with nearly 50 per cent in US and Britain.

Updated: July 9th 2021, 7:57 AM
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