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Olympic torch relay pulled from Hiroshima streets in latest COVID-19 setback

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Organizers working to put on the Olympics this summer in Tokyo hit another snag related to the COVID-19 pandemic this week.

The Olympic torch relay is being pulled off the streets in Hiroshima as coronavirus cases spike across the country, a large portion of which is still in a state of emergency, according to The Associated Press.

This is at least the sixth cancellation or reroute of the relay in recent weeks, per the report.

“It is certain there will be no relay on public streets since we are all trying to reduce going out, and how to do the ceremony without the relay on the streets is still being discussed with the organizers,” Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said, via The Associated Press.

The iconic torch relay kicked off on March 25 in northeastern Japan. The relay, per the report, is being run by around 10,000 runners that are weaving their way across the entire country before they finish at the Opening Ceremony on July 23.

More COVID issues for Tokyo Olympics

The relay change in Hiroshima marks just the latest issue related to the coronavirus pandemic for the organizing committee in recent weeks.

Japan has had more than 647,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and nearly 11,000 deaths have been attributed to it. Only about 2% of the population has been vaccinated.

The country declared a third state of emergency last month for a big portion of Japan, including Tokyo. That state of emergency was supposed to end on Tuesday, but has been extended through the end of the month.

IOC president Thomas Bach canceled his upcoming trip to the country on Monday, too, as it was too “tough” to pull off logistically. He was going to meet the torch relay in Hiroshima.

Many have started to wonder whether the Games should be held at all with the pandemic still raging in Japan and elsewhere around the globe. According to The Associated Press, between 60-80% of Japanese people have said in recent polls that the Games should be postponed or canceled completely, and tennis star Naomi Osaka questioned whether it was a smart decision.

“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” Osaka said at the Italian Open. “But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially in the past year. I think a lot of unexpected things have happened and if it’s putting people at risk and if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it should definitely be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now.”

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