Saitama Japan Cycling Criterium canceled due to pandemic

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The Criterium de Saitama du Tour de France has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to the increase in Covid-19 cases, organizers announced, days before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

“We have come to the conclusion that our priority is to ensure the safety and security of Saitama residents, athletes and other participants, as well as fans,” organizers said in a statement late Tuesday.

“Various anti-infective measures are being taken…but the increasing spread of infections in Japan remains unpredictable,” the statement said.

The annual fall race features Tour de France winners and stars and draws some 100,000 fans to the Saitama area north of Tokyo.

But the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event last year for the first time since its launch in 2013.

The greater Tokyo area has seen a rapid rise in new infections in recent weeks, prompting the central government to place the area under a state of emergency.

The measure is much more flexible than a lockdown, however, and the pandemic outbreak in Japan remains much weaker than in many other countries.

The Tokyo Olympics began competition on Wednesday with a softball match between Japan and Australia.

The Games, which officially open on Friday, will mostly take place behind closed doors with athletes and officials placed under strict anti-virus protocols.

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