Host Gary Lineker warned of “unprecedented times” as he kicked off Sport Relief 2020 with a solemn address amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BBC defied the health crisis engulfing the country and held the biennial charity event in front of a live studio audience in Salford.
It said it would do “everything possible to keep people safe” in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The evening began with a subdued entrance from hosts Lineker, former women’s footballer Alex Scott and actor Paddy McGuinness.
Match Of The Day presenter Lineker said the country is living through “extraordinarily and unprecedented times”, adding “never have the vulnerable” been more at risk.
He also promised “a chunk” of the money raised from Sport Relief will go towards those affected by the pandemic.
By the halfway stage, the charity had raised £16,365,524.
After announcing the midway total, Lineker, Scott and McGuinness handed over to three new hosts, with Emma Willis, Rylan Clark-Neal and Oti Mabuse taking the reins.
Popstar Rita Ora was an earlier performer and took to the stage to perform her hit How To Be Lonely.
She had been set to be followed by an intergenerational choir from Wales, with elderly singers teaming up with schoolchildren.
Every week, older people like Brin get together with local school children at the United Welsh Group - to sing their hearts out and have fun. Your donations help support amazing local organisations like this. Please donate now - https://t.co/1CII1NHl9N pic.twitter.com/sUPs0Lve37— Sport Relief (@sportrelief) March 13, 2020
However, it was decided the older performers would stay in Wales as a precaution against the coronavirus.
Instead, the youngsters performed on their own, delivering a poignant cover of You’ve Got A Friend In Me from the Toy Story films.
McGuinness then paid tribute to the late Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, who took her own life last month.
Flack, 40, had worked with both Sport Relief and Comic Relief.
Top Gear host McGuinness said: “She will be greatly missed by us all.
“We send all of our love to her family”.
Sport Relief 2020 will include a Line Of Duty spoof, with the cast from the BBC drama joined by comedian Lee Mack.
And acclaimed drama Killing Eve will also be parodied, with a host of famous Steves falling victim to a blonde assassin.