The Olympic torch relay in Greece has been cancelled – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.
Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta on Friday despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.
That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey.
The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday, but without fans. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.
A Greek Olympic Committee statement said: ‘The decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Health and the International Olympic Committee with a deep sense of responsibility, as public health is the supreme good and in these difficult times a reasonable attitude is required from all sides..’
The Olympic torch-lighting ceremony took place in Olympia this week with only 100 IOC officials in attendance, after an expected crowd of 12,000 was banned from coming.
Friday’s decision to halt the relay is a further sign of how this summer’s Olympics is already being affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The opening ceremony of Tokyo’s new Aquatics Centre, which was scheduled for March 22, has also been postponed and a rescheduled event will take place without spectators.
A row between world leaders has also escalated after US president Donald Trump suggested the Olympics should be postponed by a year.
Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe told Trump during a phone call that Tokyo was preparing to hold the Olympics this summer as planned.
The country’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto added: ‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all.’