Olympic Torch Run Hits Bump in the Road

The torch won't be carried through Osaka prefecture's streets due to COVID surge
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2021 7:45 AM CDT
COVID Foils Part of the Olympic Torch Run
Japanese high school student Asato Owada carries an Olympic Torch during the torch relay grand start outside J-Village National Training Center in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 25, 2021.   (Philip Fong/Pool Photo via AP)

The Olympics are set to come to Japan in 107 days, but the Olympic torch won't traverse the streets of Osaka prefecture as planned next week due to a COVID surge that had the prefecture governor speaking of the area's medical systems being "on the verge of collapse." The snag comes just two weeks into a four-month relay, and the AP calls it "a setback for Tokyo organizers." Rather than have the torch run crisscross the full prefecture, Tokyo organizers announced they would allow Osaka prefectural authorities' request that an event instead take place in a park on April 13 and 14. Details are somewhat vague, but "all torchbearers who wish to run" will reportedly be able to do so in Osaka city's Expo '70 Commemorative Park. The AP reports there will be no spectators.

Osaka reported 719 new cases Tuesday and 878 on Wednesday, fueled by the presence of new variants of the virus. The count exceeds what was recorded in Tokyo—555 on Wednesday—but many worry it could soon experience a similar spike. "I would like to ask all residents of Osaka prefecture to refrain from going out unnecessarily," said Osaka prefecture Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura on Wednesday in declaring a state of medical emergency, per Reuters. "The medical system is in a very tight situation." Less than 1% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose. Kyodo News' take: "Osaka's cancellation casts another shadow over the organizing committee's efforts to convince the Japanese public that the Olympics and Paralympics can be staged safely." (More Olympic torch stories.)

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