ATHENS.- Greece closed all archaeological sites and museums this Friday until March 30, while the Greek Olympic Committee (HOC) decided to suspend the tour of the Olympic torch, to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“After the unexpected influx of public to the ceremony of the arrival of the torch to the city of Sparta, which occurred despite the warnings, HOC has made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel the rest of the tour of the Greek territory”, announced the Olympic Committee in a statement.
One of the people in charge of carrying the torch to Sparta was the actor Gerard Butler, known for his role as King Leonidas I in the movie 300. His presence attracted hundreds of onlookers who wanted to witness the moment when Butler said the star phrase of the tape: “This is Sparta!”
For its part, the Ministry of Culture announced the closure of museums and archaeological sites a day after cinemas, theaters, gyms and nightclubs were also closed and all cultural events were canceled for a period of 15 days.
Greece has already closed schools and suspended basketball and volleyball championships and this Friday the authority responsible for professional soccer championships was also expected to announce the suspension of all matches, which were already being played behind closed doors.
At this point, the plan B that the organizers of Tokyo 2020 may have in case the coronavirus pandemic disrupts everything planned for its celebration is unknown.
Like every four years, Greece was the scene on Thursday of the ceremony for the lighting of the Olympic torch, which will arrive next week in Japan for the initial final tour, before the games begin on July 24.
But today it is unknown if the torch will light the Tokyo cauldron, if it will do so months or years later, or if Tokyo will definitely lose the opportunity to offer games for which it has been preparing for years.
And it is that since the ghost of the new coronavirus arose in China, the attention in Japan turned to the Olympic Games, but time and time again its organizers have insisted that there is no change of plans, although every day more voices arise than what They cast doubt.
The last has been the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who in a statement to journalists on Thursday suggested the possibility of postponing them for a year to avoid the risk of the Olympic trials being held “with empty stadiums.”
But as has happened on other occasions, both the Japanese authorities and the Olympic organizers have stepped up, insisting that there is no change in plans, that preparations continue and that the start date is maintained.
“Neither the International Olympic Committee (IOC) nor the Organizing Committee (of Tokyo 2020) have considered any postponement or cancellation of the Games,” Japanese Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Seiko Hashimoto said today.
IOC President Thomas Bach also said the same in statements to journalists in Greece on the occasion of the Olympic flame lighting ceremony.
“We are absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts in our commitment to deliver a safe Olympics in July this year,” said Bach.
Still, there is little light on what options organizers have if the pandemic continues to create restrictions on travel around the world, infecting more countries and more people and leaving a trail of dead that has cost the lives of more than 4,600 people. .
It was not only Trump who suggested the postponement of one year as an alternative.
This Wednesday, in statements to various media, the member of the executive board of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, Haruyuki Takahashi, said that the “most realistic” thing would be to postpone the Olympic tests one or two years, instead of canceling them.
“There are more possibilities in summer in two years because there is a gap between other international sporting events,” Takahashi told the Asahi group.
“If we are going to postpone the Olympics, we have to prepare ourselves now … The time is running out,” he added.
Already at the end of last February, the dean of the directors of the IOC, the Canadian Dick Pound, pointed out that if the coronavirus pandemic becomes dangerous for the Olympics, the organizers would choose to cancel them, instead of postponing them.
Each and every one of these positions have served to make those responsible for the decision to disprove any intention to change the calendar, but the alternatives that may exist have not been disclosed, nor when will it be possible to be certain of what will finally happen.
It was precisely Pound who ventured that, in any case, there will be no clear idea of what will finally happen until the end of May.
Although there is no complete certainty that, by then, the evolution of the pandemic will be known, which Japanese experts believe can last for months.
Bach himself remains unknown, although in the last hours he pointed out that, in any case, the “recommendations” of the World Health Organization (WHO) will be followed.
“We will have to react very flexibly,” Bach said in an interview with the German network ARD, according to what the Japanese media reported today.
For the Government of the Asian country, these Games symbolize the reconstruction of the areas hardest hit by the Fukushima natural disaster, in which more than 18,000 people died.
Even the design of the torch of these Games honors the recovery of the region after that fateful day, since it is made with recycled materials from the facilities that were enabled for those affected.
Fukushima will be where the inaugural event of the Olympic Games will take place, with a softball match between the teams from Japan and Australia taking place on July 22.
The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yoshiro Mori, called the cancellation of the Games “inconceivable”, despite the fact that the spread of the virus has prevented the holding of several qualifying tournaments.