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Students use 2-meter-long 'social distancing' batons in relay race at Japan school

Students use long batons during a relay race at an athletic festival held at Tanakita Elementary School in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Sept. 27, 2020. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- Students at an elementary school in this city south of Tokyo used 2-meter-long batons during a relay race at an athletic festival on Sept. 27, among other measures taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    At Tanakita Elementary School in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, students handed over the long batons -- made of urethane poles with plastic tape wrapped around them -- to the next runners as they participated in a relay race. During a dance to the traditional Japanese tune "Soran Bushi," students withheld from chanting aloud and instead raised paper boards bearing the calls. Ten other programs were also performed with a variety of virus prevention measures.

    The athletic festival was held on a Sunday morning, with only up to two parents or guardians from each family allowed to watch the event. Students in two different grades and their parents or guardians were allowed to be on the playground at a time, and they were replaced with another group of students and adults after a while. Students on standby watched the events live from classrooms where they were relayed on TV screens.

    Due to the coronavirus crisis, many schools in Japan canceled their athletic festivals from this spring. But a number of schools have moved to hold sports festivals this fall by attempting to strike a balance between virus prevention measures and the diversity of sport events.

    "With the long baton, I was able to be conscious about keeping a social distance during the relay race," said fifth-grader Yuka Kosuge. "I was worried if the athletic festival would be held, but the event became a pleasant memory for me," the 11-year-old said.

    (Japanese original by Daiki Takikawa, Photo Group)

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