In an unusually quiet ceremony shadowed by the coronavirus outbreak, the International Olympic Committee lit the torch for the upcoming 2020 Summer Games on Thursday, noting that “the world is facing challenges that are also impacting sport.”
The traditional ceremony took place before the Temple of Hera ruins in ancient Olympia, where an actress playing the role of a pagan priestess used a concave mirror to focus the sun’s rays on a torch.
Unlike past years, spectators were not allowed and only a select number of officials attended.
Still, Olympic leaders used the opportunity to reiterate their confidence in staging the Tokyo Games despite widespread cancellations throughout much of sport.
“We remain absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts in our commitment to delivering safe Olympic Games in July this year,” the IOC said in a statement.
The flame will now become part of week-long festivities in Greece. It will be handed over to Tokyo organizers next week and be transported to Japan. The torch relay will begin March 26, covering all 47 of the nation’s prefectures over the course of 121 days.
IOC officials said they continue to consult with the World Health Organization. The opening ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Games is scheduled for July 24.