Topics : But some 200 local children that were due to welcome the flame were kept away as part of what organizers called the “heartbreaking” decision to pare back events as the world battles the virus that has killed nearly 10,000 people.After a speech by chief organizer Yoshiro Mori, the former Olympians lit the cauldron with the torch, also designed to represent Japan’s cherished cherry blossom.”Children had planned to welcome the Olympic flame, but we decided to scale it down, giving priority to their safety,” Mori said.The actual torch relay begins on March 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was commandeered as a base by workers scrambling to contain the fall-out from the nuclear meltdown. “The Olympic flame relay is the biggest event ahead of the Olympics. It is very important for us to carry it out at any cost,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto ahead of the ceremony.But organizers have been forced to scale back what should have been a key event to raise awareness and excitement ahead of the July 24 opening ceremony.While spectators are allowed to watch from the roadside, fans have been urged to “avoid forming crowds”, with organizers warning there could be a change of program in the event of “excessive congestion”.Daily arrival and departure ceremonies are closed to the public and all torch-bearers will have their temperatures taken before participating in the relay, which is scheduled to visit every part of Japan on a 121-day journey before entering Tokyo. The Olympic flame arrived in Japan Friday to a muted reception, what should have been a joyous celebration dramatically scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic that has cast doubt over whether the Tokyo Games can even go ahead.The flame landed on a special charter flight into Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi province, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.Former Japanese Olympians Saori Yoshida and Tadahiro Nomura collected the flame from the aircraft and took it to a cauldron in the shape of a cherry blossom on a stage in front of selected guests. ‘Bigger than the Olympics’ The virus has already played havoc with the traditional early stages of the torch relay in Greece — the lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia took place without spectators and was watched by a severely reduced delegation from Tokyo.Organizers were then forced to scrap the Greek leg of the relay after large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit a cauldron in the city of Sparta.With borders shut in Europe — which has become the epicenter of the crisis — Tokyo officials did not travel to collect the torch, with former Olympic swimmer Naoko Imoto representing Japan at the official handover.As the flame arrived, there are increasing clouds over the Games, with some athletes past and present attacking the International Olympic Committee for insisting there is no need for “drastic” action such as postponement or cancellation.Japan Olympic Committee member and former Olympic judoka Kaori Yamaguchi was the latest prominent figure to suggest a postponement in a newspaper interview published the day the flame landed.”It should be postponed under the current situation where athletes are not well prepared,” Yamaguchi, a JOC executive board member, told the Nikkei daily.As well as wiping out the global sporting calendar, the coronavirus has also put paid to many athletes’ training schedules, leading some to propose a postponement.The IOC, which will take any decision over the fate of the Games, has encouraged all athletes to train for the Games “as best they can”, stressing it is “fully committed” to holding the event as planned.Nevertheless, IOC president Thomas Bach has admitted that qualifying is becoming a problem as competitions are scrapped.He said in an interview with the New York Times published Friday that the IOC was “considering different scenarios” for the Games but stressed that the Olympics were still four and a half months away.
Video Settings Metro Sport ReporterWednesday 8 Jul 2020 11:19 amShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link167Shares Full Screen Keown responded to Campbell’s advice for Aubameyang (Picture: Stadium Astro/Youtube)Martin Keown responded to Sol Campbell’s advice for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to have a ‘serious’ conversation over his Arsenal future by warning the Gunners about handing the striker a bumper new contract. Campbell advised the Gabon international, 31, to work out what the club’s plans are for the next couple of years before committing his future to the Emirates. Keown, however, thinks Arsenal should be wary over offering the attacker big money. He fears Aubameyang will be handed a hefty deal and then fail to live up to the high standards he set – in similar fashion to how Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal career has gone downhill since he signed a £350,000-a-week contract.AdvertisementAdvertisementADVERTISEMENT PLAY Read More by Metro ‘I hope that Aubameyang is a different type. ‘It may be that he goes, but a quick decision needs to be made this summer.’Campbell had said previously of Aubameyang’s future: ‘He’s got to settle down and have a conversation with the manager and he needs to have a clear understanding of what they’re looking to spend, who they’re trying to get in.More: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing Arsenal‘It’s going to come down to trust, can he trust the club to say, right we are looking for x, y and z, we’re going to bring two or three players in and I think they’ll push us on to really challenge for the top four or really you never know, the Premiership. ‘He needs to sit down with his people and have a serious conversation about where the club is going in the next two or three years, because he hasn’t got five years, six years to say let’s see how it goes, he needs almost instant success now.’Follow Metro Sport across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.For more stories like this, check our sport page. SPONSORED Coming Next Read More 1 min. story Skip Ad Comment Martin Keown reacts to Sol Campbell’s ‘serious’ advice for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Read More Visit Advertiser website GO TO PAGE Top articles Rio Ferdinand tells Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop struggling Skip 1/1 / About Connatix V67539 Read More Read More ‘Aubameyang is one of those players – of course you want to keep him at the football club,’ Keown told Stadium Astro.‘But you don’t want the Ozil situation that as soon as he signs a bumper deal that he goes into a comfort zone. ‘Something like that happened to Ozil, we lost that player when he signed for all that money every week. Manchester United captain Harry Maguire Advertisement Advertisement