As the world's top athletes get ready for the upcoming Summer Olympic games in Toyko, Japan, the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch will be closed to the public as a result of the ongoing global coronavirus outbreak.
According to a Monday announcement from the Hellenic Olympic Committee — the olympic body of Greece— this Thursday's torch-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia "will be held without the presence of spectators and will be attended by only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee."
Additionally, the committee said that Wednesday's dress rehearsal would be closed to the public and the press, but that media credentials "will be allocated to ensure coverage of the lighting ceremony" the following day. A follow-up announcement from the committee on Wednesday says that the dress rehearsal "took place today without any problems."
Reuters reports that this will be the first time since 1984 that the ceremony — which usually draws "several thousand spectators" — will take place without a public audience.
The lighting of the olympic flame takes place months before the Olympic games actually begin in the host country. At the ceremony, the flame is traditionally lit by an actress dressed a high priestess via the ancient method of concentrating the suns rays with a parabolic mirror. Once the torch is ablaze, a series of relay runners take it through Greece and the host country to the site of the games for the opening ceremony, according to the Tokyo 2020 games' website.
The decision to bar spectators from the torch lighting ceremony came just one day after the country's Health Ministry announced a two-week moratorium on fans attending sporting events and school field trips as the country in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
In its Monday announcement, the HOC also urged "the Mayors of the cities through which the Olympic Flame will pass or stay overnight to follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Organization."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Greece had 90 confirmed cases of the virus and zero deaths, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.