Tokyo Olympics Organizers Announce COVID-Safe Plans for Upcoming Torch Relay

Spectators watching the Tokyo Olympics torch relay from the side of the road will be required to social distance, wear masks and cheer quietly

Olympic torch
Olympic torch. Photo: Aris Messinis - Pool/Getty

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have outlined new guidelines and COVID-19 safety procedures for the prestigious torch relay event beginning next week.

On Tuesday, members of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a news conference that spectators will be allowed to watch the upcoming torch relay as long as they follow specific COVID-19 rules, according to the Associated Press.

The 121-day relay, which is set to begin on March 25 from Japan's Fukushima prefecture, kicks off the countdown to the official Games, which start on July 23 after being postponed from last year due to the pandemic.

"The objective of the Olympic torch relay is to enhance the enthusiasm," Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organizing committee, said at the conference, Tuesday. "We need to balance things out between bringing enthusiasm and preventing COVID-19 infection."

Spectators at the relay, which links all 47 Japanese prefectures, will be required to social distance, wear masks and cheer quietly to prevent the spread of the virus, according to the outlet.

"We want to ensure a safe torch relay not only for the runners, but for the people in the local communities who are kind enough to host it," Muto added.

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The committee warns that the relay could be scaled down or canceled if spectators do not comply with the rules, the AP reported.

"This is going to be a long relay, and as we may find the necessity to change the rules of operation around the pandemic, or as the local conditions change," Hidemasa Nakamura, games delivery officer for the organizing committee, said.

The starting ceremony and the first section of the torch relay will not be open to the public.

Organizers have yet to announce if spectators from abroad will be allowed to attend the Olympics, however, a decision is expected to be made before the end of the month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) previously confirmed to PEOPLE.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Tokyo Summer Olympics logo. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty

Last month, the IOC published the first of its official Tokyo 2020 Playbooks that outline rules and regulations that will be put into place at the Games — including a ban on physical touch.

Under the new rules, athletes and officials must wear a face mask "at all times" unless they are sleeping, eating, or at least six feet away from others while outside. Physical contact, such as hugs, handshakes, and high-fives, should also be avoided, the playbook states.

In addition, athletes and officials will not be able to use public transportation without permission. Athletes are also barred from visiting venues as spectators.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.

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