In what would have been a joyous and cheerful affair, the Olympic Flame arrived in Japan to a rather muted reception after citizens adhered to social distancing amid the deadly pandemic coronavirus scare which has claimed the lives of 10,030, affecting 2,44,523 people worldwide.
The flame landed on a special charter flight into Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi province, chosen as part of the "Recovery Olympics" to showcase the region's revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
Former Japanese Olympians Saori Yoshida and Tadahiro Nomura collected the flame from the aircraft and took it to a cauldron in the shape of a cherry blossom on a stage in front of selected guests.
But some 200 local children that were due to welcome the flame were kept away as part of what organisers called the "heartbreaking" decision to pare back events as the world battles the virus that has killed nearly 10,000 people.
After a speech by chief organiser Yoshiro Mori, the former Olympians lit the cauldron with the torch, also designed to represent Japan's cherished cherry blossom.
"Children had planned to welcome the Olympic flame, but we decided to scale it down, giving priority to their safety," Mori said.
A Japanese Olympic Committee member broke ranks to call for a postponement and Olympics chief Thomas Bach admitted "different scenarios" were under consideration.
"Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organisations or professional leagues in that we are four-and-a-half months away from the Games," Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, told the New York Times.
"For us, (postponement) would not be responsible now and it would be premature to start speculation or make a decision at a time when we do not have any recommendation from the task force," he added.
The Tokyo Olympic games are slated to be held from July 24 to August 9. However, many athletes have raised concerns over the quadrennial event taking place despite the spread of the deadly virus.
Earlier on Wednesday, four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent suggested that the Tokyo Olympics should be called off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday, the IOC had said that they are 'fully committed' to the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and added that 'there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage' despite coronavirus outbreak.
"The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage, and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive," IOC had said in a statement.
"The IOC encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can," the statement read.