Fate of Olympic torch relay in balance as virus worsens

The torches for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are manufactured at a factory in Tokyo in this photo taken on Jan, 31 and released by Kyodo on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Fate of Olympic torch relay in balance as virus worsens

TOKYO: The Olympic torch relay, due to begin Thursday from a symbolic site in Fukushima, will proceed as scheduled but organizers said they would reassess in the coming days given the “worsening” coronavirus situation.

“The torch relay will start on March 26 in Fukushima, the plan has not changed,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters, a day after the International Olympic Committee said it was considering postponing the Games due to the pandemic.

“The situation is getting worse and worse,” admitted Muto, but he added: “For now, the decision made one week ago (to proceed as planned) is still appropriate.”

The coronavirus has already had a major impact on the torch relay. In what they described as a “heartbreaking” decision, organizers downscaled a ceremony on Friday to welcome the flame from Greece, keeping 200 children away.

They have also urged people following the torch to avoid forming crowds, and closed daily welcoming and departure ceremonies to the public.

The nationwide torch relay begins on March 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was used as a base for workers during the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.




The torch for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is manufactured at a factory in Tokyo. (Kyodo/via REUTERS)

Muto said organizers would learn from the experience of this weekend when tens of thousands flocked to see the Olympic flame on display — forming exactly the sort of crowds they had hoped to avoid.

On Saturday, more than 50,000 people queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, with some lining
up for several hours.

“This is evidence of interest from residents, so in one sense we were delighted,” said Muto, adding that their priority was to prevent the virus from spreading and putting in place “advanced countermeasures.”

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said: “We still have three days until the grand start on the 26th, so I told (IOC chief Thomas Bach) that we’d like to consult (with the IOC) while discussing with related parties. Mr. Bach said he will let us handle this.”

He said even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had voiced doubts over whether it was appropriate for him to attend the start of the relay.

“I said it is not our position to tell the prime minister if he should come or not, so please make a decision as the government.”Later Monday, US-based footballer Nahomi Kawasumi announced she was pulling out of the torch relay as she did risk potentially spreading the coronavirus.


WWE names Bandar Al-Mashhadi MENA Vice President and General Manager

Updated 04 June 2020

WWE names Bandar Al-Mashhadi MENA Vice President and General Manager

  • Al-Mashhadi will lead WWE’s strategic business initiatives and day-to-day operations in the MENA region
  • He will also manage local operations for the company’s 10-year partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority

RIYADH: WWE announced on Thursday the appointment of Bandar Al-Mashhadi as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Vice President and General Manager.  

Al-Mashhadi will lead WWE’s strategic business initiatives and day-to-day operations in the MENA region and work with partners across all of WWE’s lines of business, including television, live events, marketing, sponsorship, advanced media, licensing and merchandising. He will also manage local operations for the company’s 10-year partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority.

“We are excited to welcome Bandar to our international leadership team and confident that his experience in managing successful partnerships in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East will have a significant impact on WWE’s continued growth,” said James Rosenstock, WWE Executive Vice President, International. “We look forward to Bandar leading WWE’s efforts in this important region for our company.”

Al-Mashhadi has more than 20 years of experience as an executive in Saudi-based companies. He spent the past six years at OSN, most recently as Managing Director, leading implementation of the broadcaster’s corporate strategy in Saudi Arabia. During this time he also served a one-year deployment as Advisor to the Minister of Media in Saudi Arabia, leading multiple Vision 2030 initiatives including the privatization of the Saudi News Network.

Earlier in his career, Al Mashhadi spent more than a decade at BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia, rising to Director of Portfolio Management and undertaking strategic leadership placements with joint venture partners.