BERN: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains fully committed to staging the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 and is considering multiple scenarios for them to take place safely, its president Thomas Bach said late on Wednesday.
Japan and the IOC postponed the Tokyo Games until 2021 in March because of the global novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Organisers have since spoken of trying to simplify the event — which had been due to start on July 24 — to reduce costs and ensure athletes’ safety.
Bach said the IOC’s coordination commission had reported ‘very good work in progress’ and that more details would be given to a full IOC session which will take place by video conference on Friday.
“We remain fully committed to celebrating Tokyo 2020 next year in July and August,” Bach told reporters in a conference call. “The entire IOC is following the principle we established before the postponement [in March] that the first priority is about the safety of all participants.
“We continue to be guided by the advice of the World Health Organisation [WHO] and based on this advice we are preparing multiple scenarios,” he added. “We don’t know the health situation one year from now.”
Bach said that holding events without spectators was clearly something the IOC did not want. “We are working for a solution which on the one hand is safeguarding the health of all participants and on the other hand is also reflecting the Olympic spirit.”
Banning fans from the Tokyo Games is clearly something IOC don’t want, Bach remarked, adding that ‘multiple scenarios’ were under consideration.
But he clearly signalled his reluctance to hold the Games at empty stadiums, now a common sight in sport as other competitions make a tentative return from virus-enforced shutdowns.
“Olympic Games behind closed doors is clearly something we do not want,” the IOC chief said. “So we are working for a solution of the Olympic Games which, on one hand, is safeguarding the health of all the participants and, on the other hand, is also reflecting the Olympic spirit.”
Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have both warned that it would be hard to postpone the Games beyond 2021, raising the nightmare scenario of the first Olympics to be cancelled in peace time.
“The first priority is about the safety of all participants of the Olympic Games,” said Bach. “For this reason, we are working now on multiple scenarios of the organisation of the Games with regard to the health situation of which we do not know how it will be in one year from now.”
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike last month said she would make a ‘120 percent effort’ for the Games to go ahead, pledging the Olympics would be safe despite the pandemic.
On Wednesday Tokyo moved its coronavirus alert to red, the highest level, after a resurgence of cases in Japan’s capital.
Bach, meanwhile, also said the IOC had agreed with host nation Senegal to postpone the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar until 2026.
“This allows the IOC and national Olympic committees to better plan activities which have been strongly affected by the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games and subsequent postponement of other major sports events,” he said.
The decision will have to be ratified by the full IOC session on Friday.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2020