Olympic Torch Relay Through Greece Canceled Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIMarch 13, 2020

Greek singer Sakis Rouvas wears the uniform of the torch relay runners as he holds the torch of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games during a presentation of the torch relay within in Greece, in Athens, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. The Olympic flame lighting ceremony will be held on Thursday, March 12, and will burn at the July 24 - Aug. 9 Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

The Olympic torch relay through Greece has become the latest sporting event to be canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Hellenic Olympic Committee confirmed the news in a statement, per Rachel Axon at USA Today: "This is even more regrettable after the huge success of the relay during its first two days with big crowds gathering along the route and at the ceremonies."

The torch will still be handed over to Tokyo 2020 organisers as planned but with no supporters in attendance. 

The Olympic torch was lit on Thursday at the Temple of Hera in ancient Olympia, southern Greece. The flame-lighting ceremony went ahead without supporters because of the pandemic:

The torch was scheduled to travel through Greece and be handed over at a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on March 19.

Friday saw the torch relay reach Sparta where Hollywood actor Gerard Butler was involved in the relay, as shown by NBC Sport's Nick Zaccardi:

However, the relay drew "large crowds" which prompted the HOC to cut short the event because of the "health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic," per the Olympic Channel.

The HOC have confirmed that the handover ceremony will still go ahead as planned, but without spectators.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a raft of postponements to sporting events across the globe. In the United States, Major League Soccer has been suspended for at least 30 days, along with the NBA, the NFL and MLB.

The major European football leagues have all been suspended, along with the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League.

Formula One has pushed the start of the season back to May, while in tennis the ATP Tour has been suspended for six weeks.

The postponements have raised questions over whether the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start on July 24, will be able to go ahead as planned.

However, Japan's Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, has denied suggestions the Games could be cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic. 

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