By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - The Olympic rings monument installed in Tokyo Bay for the 2020 Summer Games was temporarily removed for maintenance on Thursday and will return in December when Japan heads into the final stretch of preparations for the rescheduled event.
The Olympics were pushed back by a year in March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Thursday would have been Day 14 of the Games.
The monument, which was installed seven months ago and stands 15.3m tall and 32.6m wide, will be cleaned and undergo a safety inspection before being re-installed.
"Since it will be not on display for four months, it is kind of sad," Atsushi Yanashimizu, Planning Director at Tokyo Metropolitan Government, told Reuters on Thursday.
"But I consider in a positive way that we will make sure it will be clean and securely maintained when it comes back in four months.”
When the rings are re-installed in December organisers will hope to have a better idea as to whether the Games can go ahead in Tokyo next year amid continuing concerns about COVID-19.
Organisers have said successfully hosting the Games can be a positive symbol for the world as it deals with the pandemic.
"By delivering the Games successfully in Tokyo we strongly hope that we can create a legacy that is in the history of mankind," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told Reuters in an interview last month.
(Story refiles to fix spelling of 'rescheduled' in first par)
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)