According to Reuters, Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of the Olympic organizing committee, will release details about the torch relay next week. The outlet reports that Muto has said organizers would consider scaling back the ceremonial relay to prevent the spread of the disease.
“As for the torch relay, as CEO Muto said, we want to announce to you the basic policy, the big policy, next week,” Masa Takaya, organizing committee spokesman, said at a recent briefing, according to Reuters.
If the torch relay proceeds as scheduled, the torch will be lit in Olympia, Greece, on March 12, before arriving in Japan on March 26. It won’t make its way to Tokyo until July 10. The opening ceremony for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is scheduled for July 24.
The uncertainty over the torch relay comes amid concerns about how the 2020 Games will be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, said officials would likely cancel the Games — rather than postpone or move — if the epidemic continues to spread by late May.
“This is the new war and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’ ” he said.
However, Reuters reported that IOC president Thomas Bach said on Thursday that the organization is “fully committed” to holding the Olympics as planned.
There have only been five Olympics canceled in modern history — all of which were abandoned due to the onset of a world war. The last time the Olympics were called off was during World War II.
Japan is one of numerous countries currently attempting to halt the spread of the global virus. On Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an announcement urging elementary, middle and high schools to shut down until late March, which is near the end of the Japanese school year.
“This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day,” said Abe, per the Associated Press.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 83,365 cases of coronavirus — officially named COVID-19 — have been reported as of Feb. 28, including 2,857 deaths.