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COVID-19 | Tokyo Olympic flame taken off display; next stop unclear

The Olympic Flame burns at Fukushima City in Japan. | File

The Olympic Flame burns at Fukushima City in Japan. | File   | Photo Credit: AP

It was removed Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a state of emergency in order to combat the coronavirus, which includes limiting large crowds

The Tokyo Olympic flame has been taken off public display in Japan. And it’s not clear when it will reappear again or where or under what conditions.

The flame arrived in Japan from Greece on March 26. After the Tokyo Olympics and the torch relay were postponed until next year, the flame was put on display in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima. It was to remain on display through the end of April.

Also read | Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite coronavirus fears

It was removed after several days when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday issued a state of emergency in order to combat the coronavirus, which includes limiting large crowds.

“Tokyo 2020 will now keep the flame in an undisclosed location to prevent people from gathering,” Tokyo organisers said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Tokyo organisers are expected to keep the flame for the short-term. In the long-term, the flame is expected to be used by the International Olympic Committee as a promotion device and as a symbol of the fight against the pandemic.

“The idea will be to keep this flame burning and showing it to the world,” Michael Payne, the former marketing director of the IOC,” told Associated Press in a recent interview.

The flame is expected to reappear next year in Japan for the torch relay. But Payne, who no longer works for the IOC, hinted it could have a wider purpose.

“The Olympic flame burning will provide a very powerful inspiration, a bright light as the world goes through these difficult times,” he said.

Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chinese organisers and IOC organised an international torch relay that went to about 20 countries.

The worldwide tour was met by violent protests against China’s human rights record in Tibet and elsewhere. The flame was targeted at several stops including London, Paris and San Francisco. This forced organisers to reroute the relay to separate protesters and supporters.

The chaos at the time was described as a “crisis” for the IOC by then-President Jacques Rogge. The IOC subsequently cancelled any future plans for a worldwide display of the flame.

Any plan next year to take the flame on a world tour, or even a tour of Japan, will depend on the evolution of the virus. The same is true for holding the Olympics amid large crowds in just under 16 months.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 8:06:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/covid-19-tokyo-olympic-flame-taken-off-display-next-stop-unclear/article31287915.ece

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