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Greece portion of Olympic Torch Relay suspended

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The Olympic Torch Relay’s Greece portion was canceled on the second day of its eight-day trek through the nation due to the coronavirus, Greece’s Olympic Committee confirmed Friday.

The Olympic Flame, lit in the Ancient Olympic site of Olympia on Thursday, was carried by, among others, actor Gerard Butler in Sparta on Friday before the suspension. Butler starred as Spartan King Leonidas in the 2006 film “300.”

An unexpectedly large crowd attendance in Sparta despite recommendations to the public not to focus on the ceremony led to the decision to cancel the rest of the program, according to a translation of a Greek statement. The Greek Olympic Committee later confirmed the cancellation in an email in English.

The delivery of the Olympic Flame to Tokyo 2020 next Thursday will take place without spectators at the 1896 Olympic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, according to the Greek statement.

The International Olympic Committee reiterated its “full commitment” to the Tokyo Olympics after the Greek leg of the torch relay was canceled.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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H EOE διακόπτει την Ολυμπιακή Λαμπαδηδρομία για την προάσπιση της δημόσιας υγείας!H Eλληνική Ολυμπιακή Επιτροπή μετά…

Posted by Hellenic Olympic Committee on Friday, March 13, 2020

Olympic Flame lit in Olympia, torch relay for Tokyo Games starts

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The Tokyo Olympic torch relay began in Olympia, Greece, on Thursday at the traditional Olympic Flame lighting ceremony, held with limited attendance due to coronavirus concerns.

“We are especially grateful that you made today’s ceremony possible, even under difficult circumstances,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a speech, thanking the Greek Olympic Committee president at the site of the Ancient Olympics. “This demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Nineteen weeks before the Opening Ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world who are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

On Monday, it was announced that the lighting ceremony would be held without spectators and attended by a limited, 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020.

The ceremony was capped by Greek Olympic shooting champion Anna Korakaki becoming the first woman to be the first torchbearer of an Olympic torch relay, which was first held for the 1936 Berlin Games.

Korakaki, a Rio gold medalist already qualified for the Tokyo Games, then passed the flame to Japan’s 2004 Olympic marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi.

The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan for a 121-day trek through the country leading up to the July 24 Opening Ceremony cauldron lighting.

The Japanese part of the relay begins in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima, with the first torchbearers being members of the 2011 Women’s World Cup champion team.

“Given the unprecedent circumstances the world is facing, the health and safety of the thousands of torchbearers, spectators and staff will be the first priority along the route of the Olympic Torch Relay both in Greece and Japan,” the IOC said in a press release.

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Olympic Flame lighting ceremony set for Olympia; TV, live stream info

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The Olympic Flame will be lit in Olympia, Greece, to start the Tokyo Olympic torch relay on Thursday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Coverage of the ceremony begins at 5:30 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

The Olympic torch relay traditionally begins at the ancient Olympic site of Olympia several months before the Opening Ceremony (on July 24 this year). The lighting ceremony, first held for the 1936 Berlin Games, uses the sun’s rays and a concave mirror.

Via the Greek Olympic Committee: “According to the ritual, the High Priestess proceeds to the lighting at the Temple of Hera (Heraion) which is opposite to the Temple of Zeus, at the archaeological site of Olympia. There, the High Priestess, calls the God of Sun Apollo to light the torch, making a prayer.”

A Greek athlete is traditionally the first torchbearer. This year, it’s Rio Olympic shooting gold medalist Anna Korakaki, who will become the first woman to be the first torchbearer.

Japan’s 2004 Olympic marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi will be the second torchbearer, according to Tokyo 2020 officials.

The lighting ceremony will be held without spectators due to coronavirus concerns. It will be attended by 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020.

The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan for a 121-day trek through the country leading up to the Opening Ceremony cauldron lighting.

The Japanese part of the relay begins in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima, with the first torchbearers being members of the 2011 Women’s World Cup champion team.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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