A Tokyo 2020 delegation will not fly to Athens to collect the Olympic Flame tomorrow as was originally planned.
A party was scheduled to depart from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on a special aircraft - named Tokyo 2020 Go - and expected to arrive in Athens tomorrow evening local time, but the plane will no longer carry a delegation.
The handover ceremony in the historic Panathinaiko Stadium is still set to go ahead on Thursday (March 19), albeit behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
A delegation was expected to be led by Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori and it had previously been announced that triple Olympic champions Tadahiro Nomura and Saori Yoshida would be Japanese Torchbearers in a short relay.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) has confirmed that Rio 2016 rings gold medallist Eleftherios Petrounias will take part in the relay pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi is expected to light a small cauldron in the centre of the stadium.
Only 10 of the priestesses will take part in a short performance as a prelude to the official handover of the Flame by HOC President Spyros Capralos to an as yet unnamed Tokyo 2020 official.
Performances by school groups from both Japan and Greece had already been cancelled as a precautionary measure.
The whole ceremony will be watched by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou in one of her first public engagements since her inauguration last Friday(March 13).
This afternoon, workmen were starting preparations for the ceremony in the stadium, which is closed to the public in common with all other museums and archaeological sites.
A sign outside said that “following the directions from the ministries of health and culture about COVID-19, it will be closed until further notice.
"Thanks for your understanding.”
The Flame will be transported back to Japan in a miner’s safety lamp after the ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 President Mori has already announced a significant scaling back of the welcome ceremony when the flame arrives at Matsushima Air Base in the prefecture of Miyagi on Friday (March 20).