Tokyo Olympic President Seiko Hashimoto speaks at a press conference at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Tokyo, Japan, April 21, 2021.

The organization of the Tokyo Olympics turns out to be a challenge to the test of the Covid-19 pandemic. The organizers of the competition reported, Thursday, April 22, the first infection with the coronavirus during the Olympic torch relay in Japan, as the pandemic continues to disrupt preparations for this global sporting event.

The organizers said that a man in his thirties, who had participated in the relay on the island of Shikoku (west), had tested positive, without specifying either his role or his identity. This is the first case reported in connection with the Olympic torch relay, which has been banned from public access in certain areas, for fear of the spread of the virus.

The organizers are committed to working with the medical authorities to “Take the necessary precautions to organize a safe torch relay”, while the Olympics, postponed for a year to 2020, must now open on July 23.

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Relay canceled in some cities

The historic city of Kyoto is the latest to express strong reluctance, with local media reporting that municipal authorities will demand that the relay not take place on public roads. According to the newspaper Asahi, Kyoto could propose to organize the relay inside the castle of Nijo, classified as World Heritage by Unesco.

Last week, the flame was carried on a closed course in a park in nearby Osaka, as the public were kept away. Okinawa, in southern Japan, and the western city of Matsuyama, have also canceled the Olympic torch relay due to the increase in Covid-19 cases.

Organizers insist that the relay, which involves around 10,000 runners crossing Japan’s 47 departments, can be safely organized under very strict health rules. They warned that parts of the relay could be suspended if too many spectators gather in one place.

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The relay started on March 25 in Fukushima (northeast), as spectators were not allowed to attend the start ceremony and the first stage. Japan is currently experiencing a new wave of infections and a new state of emergency could be declared on Friday in some departments, including Tokyo and Osaka.

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The World with AFP

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