By Stephen, AP Game writer
Tokyo (AP) – The Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay will not run through the streets of Osaka Province next week due to rising COVID-19 cases.
The move is a setback for Tokyo organizers, who started the relay two weeks ago from the northeastern Fukushima Prefecture, with 10,000 runners planned to flee Japan over the course of four months.
The Olympics opened in just 100 days on 23 July.
In a change of plans at the last minute, the organizers said in a statement on Wednesday that the runners and torchbearers would attend an event at Osaka City Park on a day when the relay was to cross the entire province. Which was to be held on 13-14 April.
“Looking at the circumstances, Osaka prefectural officials today requested Tokyo 2020 to hold the Osaka section of the Olympic Torch Relay at the Expo ’70 Memorial Park instead of public roads,” Tokyo organizers said in a statement.
The statement said the Osaka section would be held at the park “for all torchbearers who wish to run there.” It also said that “no audience” would be admitted on any given day.
The sequence of keeping the relay on track is reminiscent of the huge problems that are likely to occur when the Olympics and Paralympics are held in Japan, with a total of 15,400 athletes from over 200 countries. He will join thousands of other officials, judges, media and broadcasters.
Fans have been banned abroad, and it is not yet clear how many local fans will be able to participate in the Olympic events. Tokyo Organizing Committee Chairman Seiko Hashimoto promised a decision on venue capacity this month, but indicated last week that the announcement could be delayed.
Ticket sales totaled $ 800 million in revenue for the organizers, a larger share, but smaller than the Olympics’ official bill of $ 15.4 billion, much of which falls on Japanese taxpayers.
Osaka Prefecture Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura on Wednesday asked people not to make unnecessary trips to the area.
“The medical system (in Osaka) is on the verge of collapse, due to a rapid spike in infection in new variants of the virus,” Yoshimura said at a news conference. “Apparently it spreads more quickly and is more contagious.”
Officials said about 70% of the available hospital beds in Osaka are occupied.
Osaka reported 719 new cases on Tuesday and was expected to exceed 800 on Wednesday, both totals for Tokyo. But it is also feared that the spike will be visible in Tokyo soon.
Vaccine rollout occurs at a very slow pace in Japan, with very few people expecting the Olympics to begin. Japan has attributed approximately 9,300 deaths to COVID-19, which is good by world standards but poor by standards in most Asian countries.
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