The Olympic Committee of Greece on Friday suspended the route of the Olympic torch in the country, due to the large number of people who gathered to assist and who ignored the preventive measures of Covid-19, imposed by the local government.
The Hellenic organism explained that, on Thursday, "a large crowd" gathered in the southern city of Sparta, to watch the passing of the torch, representative of the next Olympic Games, scheduled for the summer, in Tokyo.
"It was a difficult decision, but we had no other option," said the Greek Olympic Committee, adding that such a decision was taken after consulting the government and the International Olympic Committee.
The route in Greece, cradle of the Olympic Games, would include the passage in 31 cities and 15 sites of archaeological interest.
On March 19, the Olympic torch will be handed over to the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympic Games in Athens, at the stadium that hosted the first modern games in 1896.
The Olympic torch was lit Thursday in Olímpia, at 12pm (10am in Lisbon), in a ceremony without an audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic, on the same day that Greece recorded its first death due to the disease.
On the stage of the first Olympic Games in antiquity, actress Xanthi Georgiu, dressed as a Greek priestess, lit the torch in the traditional way, with the sun's rays passing through a parabolic mirror.
For the first time since 1984, the ceremony took place without the presence of spectators, only with guests.
36 years ago, the flame was also lit without the presence of an audience, with part of the Greek organization protesting about the marketing policies for the Los Angeles Games.
This time, it was the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Greek Committee that took drastic measures, with the aim of mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The start of the course fell to a woman for the first time, with Olympic shooting champion Anna Korakaki starting the course.
The new coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 was detected in December 2019 in China, and has already caused more than 4,900 deaths worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare the disease as a pandemic.
The number of infected people has exceeded 131 thousand people, with cases registered in more than 120 countries and territories, including Portugal, which has 112 confirmed cases.