Last month's news that the Tokyo Olympics has been postponed until 2021 was a big enough blow to athletes, fans and organizers — but this is just as heavy on symbolism in terms of the state of the world, much of it on 'lockdown', after months of the coronavirus pandemic:
"The Tokyo Olympic flame has been taken off public display in Japan. And it’s not clear when it will reappear again or where — or under what conditions," AP reports.
The torch had been on display in Fukushima since arriving from Greece late last month. Though it was supposed to remain on display through April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday issued a state of emergency for the whole country, banning large gatherings and crowds, after COVID-19 cases soared past 4,000 - and approaching 100 deaths.
This prompted officials to essentially hide the flame "in an undisclosed location" to ensure crowds don't gather in front of it.
“Tokyo 2020 will now keep the flame in an undisclosed location to prevent people from gathering,” Tokyo Olympic organizers told the AP.
Later the International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to use it as a public symbol of world hope amid the pandemic. “The idea will be to keep this flame burning and showing it to the world,” an IOC official said. “The Olympic flame burning will provide a very powerful inspiration, a bright light as the world goes through these difficult times.”
But the flame could remain 'hidden' through much of this year, as it's not expected to resume it's originally planned torch relay schedule until 2021, just ahead of the now delayed Tokyo Olympics.
The torch ceremony ahead of each modern olympics begins in Olympia, Greece - where the ancient games were held. The practice was revived in modern times for the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany.