International runners unlikely at Tokyo Olympic torch relay

International runners will be unlikely to take part in the Olympic torch relay to start on March 25, organisers said here on Thursday. Tokyo 2020 chief operating officer Yukihiko Nunomura said at a news conference that foreign tourists and other short-term visitors have been barred from entering Japan because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

Nunomura added that around 300 international runners were expected to take part in the relay before the postponement of the Olympics last year. “They have been contacted about the details so it is difficult right now for them. The torch relay will be held despite that, and going forward with that will be difficult in that respect,” he said, Xinhua news reports.

Organizers said that government immigration policy must be “observed” with regard to torchbearers coming to Japan from overseas.

Overseas spectators are also doubtful for attending the Games, which are due to begin on July 23.

The IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi told reporters on Wednesday that “late April might be right time” to decide whether to allow overseas spectators to attend.

The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off on March 25 from the J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima, which was hit hard by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The flame, lit in Greece’s Olympia in March, will travel 121 days through 859 municipalities across all of Japan’s 47 prefectures before it arrives at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Around 10,000 torchbearers will take part in the event.

All participants should “as a rule” wear masks and refrain from having loud conversations. Spectators at roadsides will be encouraged to applaud rather than cheer or shout.

Torchbearers may run unmasked if they maintain a certain distance between each other but they can not be positioned face-to-face to avoid close contact.

“Individual relay segments will be suspended if there is a risk of overcrowding,” the guidelines said.