The coronavirus outbreak has caused organisers to scale back festivities ©Hellenic Olympic Committee/Paris Sarrikostas

The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) has scaled down events around the lighting of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Flame next week, but insists the ceremony in Ancient Olympia will go ahead "with a sense of responsibility for the protection of public health."

A crisis meeting held at HOC headquarters in Athens to discuss the impact of coronavirus outbreak has decided that the full dress rehearsal scheduled for March 11 in Olympia will take place without spectators.

This has usually been a public event, attended by local schools and residents.

The HOC has also cancelled the traditional dinners, lunches and receptions normally held in Olympia to celebrate the lighting.

Municipal authorities in the town have also been asked to reduce their programme of events. 

In the past, there have been performances of traditional dances in the town square, art exhibitions and sporting events in the main street.

A task force comprising HOC President Spyros Capralos, secretary general Manolis Kolympadis and Torch Relay Commission chairman Thanassis Vassiliadis is expected to reconvene on Thursday (March 5) in the first of a series of regular meetings. 

An HOC statement said: "New meetings will be held to make decisions with regards to the Olympic Flame ceremonies.”

It is maintaining regular contact with the Ministry of Health, Civil Protection, National Emergency Aid Center and those responsible for crisis management in the health sector.

Europe now has more than 2,500 confirmed coronavirus cases ©Getty Images
Europe now has more than 2,500 confirmed coronavirus cases ©Getty Images

The rehearsals in Olympia normally include the sequences in the ruins of the Temple of Hera where the Olympic Flame is lit. 

The flames obtained during these rehearsals are always kept in safety lamps as a precaution in case bad weather conditions prevent the lighting of a flame during the actual ceremony. 

A reserve flame was used for the Relay to Pyeongchang 2018.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is still scheduled to attend the lighting ceremony along with outgoing Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

The HOC has said it expects the handover ceremony to Tokyo 2020 in Athens to proceed on March 19.

There are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, as the virus is known by the World Health Organization, in Greece.

At least 33 European nations have confirmed cases, and more than 90,000 have been reported worldwide.