Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay Official Ambassador Ishihara Satomi (C) reacts during the Torch Relay rehearsal in Hamura, Tokyo, Japan, on Feb. 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Tokyo 2020 cancels student performance at Olympic flame handover ceremony

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympic Games have canceled the performance of about 140 Japanese students at the Olympic flame handover ceremony in Athens, Greece, on March 19.

Yoshiro Mori, President of the organizing committee, told reporters on Friday that due to the spread of COVID-19 these Japanese elementary, junior high and high school students will not travel to Greece with the Tokyo 2020 delegation.

Mori, a former Japanese Prime Minister, said that top priority will go to the safety and health of the children.

“I am sorry that the children will not be able to show their accomplishments,” he said. “I would like to talk with the organizing committee if there are any other chances for them.”

The Olympic flame will be lit at the historic site of Ancient Olympia in Greece on March 12. After a week-long initial leg of the torch relay in Greece, a flame handover ceremony will take place at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on March 19.

The flame will arrive in Japan on a special aircraft and an arrival ceremony be held at JASDF Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi prefecture on March 20.

According to the original plan, some 200 local children were planned to welcome the Olympic flame at the arrival ceremony, but because of the virus, they will not attend the event.

Mori said that the organizing committee will reduce the number of staff for the lighting ceremony on March 12 and the start of the national torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26.

The Japanese government has closed all elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide from last Monday through the students’ spring break, which typically ends in early April.