One of the first runners in the Tokyo Olympics torch relay has dropped out of the event scheduled for Thursday, the Games organising committee said on Wednesday.
Homare Sawa, captain of Japan’s women’s football team, which won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, was one of those kicking off the torch relay on Thursday.
Her former coach Norio Sasaki told a press conference she had decided to pull out, citing health reasons.
On Thursday, the training centre at J-Village in Fukushima will house the starting ceremony for the Olympic torch relay, kicking off a countdown to the Games in Tokyo – the first-ever organised during a deadly pandemic.
Tokyo bans international volunteers
Tokyo Olympic organisers said on Monday that Japan would not allow in volunteers from overseas except for some who are deemed essential, after it decided to bar international spectators amid public concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Athletes’ families are also likely to be barred although organisers have yet to make a decision, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told a news conference.
Muto said the decision on volunteers was regrettable but that organisers wanted to decide now so there would not be confusion for those people overseas who were waiting for a decision.
Organisers said on Saturday they had decided not to allow in foreign spectators during the Games and would refund some 600 000 Olympic tickets and another 30 000 Paralympic tickets purchased by overseas residents.
“So considering that decision, we have also decided that we will not be able to allow volunteers from outside Japan into Japan this summer to take part in the Games,” Muto said.
Muto added that organisers had yet to reach a conclusion about the families of athletes but that they would likely be considered in the same way as foreign spectators.
More than 110 000 volunteers had put their lives on hold waiting for word from Olympics organisers about their roles this summer.