“We ask the spectators not to cheer and scream,” said Yukihiko Nunomura, a senior organizing committee member, at a press conference, explaining that masks are expected from the spectators. “Please cheer by clapping your hands,” he added.

The organizers emphasized that the spectators will not be prevented from participating. But crowds are when you can figure out when a group of onlookers becomes a crowd.

“If by chance there are crowded gatherings in the street, the torch relay can be stopped as we prioritize safety,” Nunomura said.

The run-down torch relay begins on March 25 in northeast Fukushima Prefecture, which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The flame is slated to wander through all of Japan’s 47 prefectures before arriving in Tokyo for the opening ceremony on July 23. However, the route may be changed due to the pandemic situation, the organizers said.

The relay is streamed live to prevent mass gatherings on the street.

“We are asking people to watch the live stream to avoid overcrowding,” said Nunomura. “But when there are no crowds, we want the local people to actively participate and liven up the atmosphere.”

Celebrities were enlisted to carry the torch and create excitement – but not too much either. The organizers said they asked torchbearers not to reveal their running places in case the crowd showed up to see them.

A torchbearer, comedian Atsushi Tamura, retired last month after then organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori suggested holding the Olympics regardless of the pandemic circumstances, saying celebrities should carry the torch through rice fields to celebrate the Dodging spectators.

Mori has since stepped down after making humiliating remarks to women, and about 1,000 volunteers, or 1 percent of the total, have withdrawn in protest of his comments and concerns about the pandemic. Mori’s successor, Seiko Hashimoto, said Thursday she hopes to have more clarity on whether and how spectators can be accommodated for the Games by the start of the torch relay next month.

Being a torchbearer isn’t going to be as fun as it is in other games. During the two weeks prior to running, they are asked to refrain from anything that could expose them to the virus, such as: B. Eating out or going to crowded places.

They won’t get a coronavirus test unless they feel sick. However, they are asked to fill out a daily health checklist and wear masks when not walking. On this day they are also asked “not to speak loudly on buses and at reception desks”.

Given the risks, there had been talk of cutting off the torch relay, but organizers decided to continue the event, which is sponsored by companies like Coca-Cola and Toyota.

Local sponsors spent around $ 3.5 billion on these Olympics, according to the Associated Press. The official price has risen to $ 15.4 billion after the games were postponed last year. However, according to estimates by accountants, it could exceed $ 25 billion.

Hopes that Japan would have vaccinated a large portion of its population in time for the Games have faded in recent weeks, and Vaccine Implementation Minister Taro Kono said Wednesday the Games were “not on my agenda at all. ”

Japan has only approved Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for use against the coronavirus, but shipments from Europe have been slow to arrive. The vaccinations started last week and affected fewer than 18,000 medical workers.

Athletes coming to the Games are encouraged to get vaccinated, but shots are not mandatory, John Coates, vice president of the International Olympic Commission, said Thursday.

“Not mandatory, we can’t,” Coates told reporters in Brisbane, Australia, according to Reuters.

“But it’s certainly being funded, and the IOC has an agreement with Covax that will help make vaccine distribution easier.”

Covax is the World Health Organization’s global vaccine exchange program.

Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report.

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