Big crowds force HOC to suspend Olympic torch relay in Greece


The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) decided to suspend the remainder of the Olympic Torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds because of coronavirus, it said on Friday.

But HOC said the opening leg of the relay in the southern Peloponnese town of Sparta attracted an "unexpectedly large crowd," forcing it to suspend the remaining stops.

It says the decision was taken in coordination with the health ministry and the International Olympic Committee.

The event included Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, who carried the Olympic Flame from the Byzantine town of Mystras to Sparta. Butler famously played the role of King Leonidas of Sparta in the movie “300."

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay got under way on Thursday when the flame was lit by the rays of the sun in ancient Olympia in a scaled-down ceremony overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The handover of the flame to the Tokyo Games organizers would take place as scheduled in Athens on March 19 without spectators.

[Reuters, AP, Kathimerini]