Olympic torch being carried through Japan
The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics ran through a mostly empty Osaka city park on Tuesday, showing the risks of trying to hold the postponed games during a pandemic.
It came on the same day that the government said new coronavirus cases in Osaka hit 1,099, a single-day record for Japan’s second largest metropolitan area.
The torch relay began three weeks ago in northeastern Japan, attempting to navigate around the pandemic with a total of 10,000 runners crisscrossing the country and bound for the opening ceremony on July 23 in Tokyo, The AP reported.
Osaka, which announced plans last week to take the relay off city streets and bar the public, became the first detour since the relay began. Organizers warned beforehand there may be more.
Wednesday’s second leg in Osaka — the day the Tokyo countdown clock hits 100 day to go — will be in the same park under the same closed-doors conditions.
New COVID-19 cases are rising across Japan, where fewer than 1% of residents have been vaccinated in very slow rollout.
Japan has attributed about 9,500 deaths to COVID-19, far fewer than many countries but higher than most neighbors in Asia.
Osaka, Tokyo and other parts of Japan have declared “quasi-emergency” conditions until early May with bars and restaurants being asked to close by 8 p.m.
Many runners arrived in Osaka’s Expo ’70 Commemorative Park by bus and ran short legs carrying the torch alongside metal barriers or in empty park space.
They were accompanied by security officials who jogged or walked alongside, and followed by an “escort” or “promotional” vehicle festooned with logos of major Olympic sponsors Coca-Cola and Toyota.