Olympics: Tokyo Games organisers roll out safety measures for torch relay participants

The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to kick off on March 25 in Fukushima and will last 121 days. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Tokyo Olympics organisers pushed ahead with plans for the torch relay that will take place nationwide next month, laying out countermeasures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that caused the cancellation of the relay last year.

Organisers called on runners to refrain from dining with people during the two weeks before the event and to keep a daily record of their temperatures, while spectators are asked to wear masks and not cheer on the runners but instead applaud, according to guidelines from the Tokyo organising committee released on Thursday (Feb 25).

The event is scheduled to kick off on March 25 in Fukushima and will last 121 days, covering all of Japan's 47 prefectures and taking in 859 municipalities.

The measures come after the Governor of Shimane prefecture, located in western Japan, earlier this month threatened to cancel local relay events unless the host city of Tokyo and the country's government take more aggressive steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In March 2020, the relay was called off at the last minute amid the spread of the pandemic which ultimately pushed back the Summer Games, the first postponement since the modern Olympics began. Organisers continue to insist the Games will go ahead this year as planned.

That task was made more difficult after former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori resigned as the chief of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee following a global outcry over his sexist comments.

Since the incident, more than 1,000 volunteers for the Games have withdrawn, national broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday. The Games' organisers have created a committee on gender equality following the uproar.

"Gender equality and women's empowerment is going to be something that is going to be promoted," organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said at a Tokyo press conference on Wednesday night.

Hashimoto - a former Olympic speed skater and track cyclist - was named to the post earlier this month after Mori stepped down.

One of Hashimoto's most pressing tasks will be winning back the confidence of sponsors.

She also expects to organise a meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and other officials.

Bach said the IOC plans to decide whether to allow spectators at the Games venues in April or early May, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.

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