TOKYO: Olympic boss Thomas Bach said on Thursday that the Tokyo Games could take place next year even without a coronavirus vaccine, pointing to the success of the Tour de France.
Striking an optimistic note at a meeting with Tokyo 2020 organisers, he vowed to make the postponed event a triumph despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.
“We can see that sport is coming back slowly but surely, and that a number of big sport events have been successfully organised recently, including matches in different Japanese leagues,” he said via videolink. “Also very complex events like the Tour de France and others, which showed to us and showed to the world that we can organise safe sport events even without a vaccine.”
But a vaccine and progress in rapid testing ‘would of course greatly facilitate’ holding the event, said Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The 2020 Games were postponed earlier this year as the deadly new illness spread around the globe.
They are now set to open on July 23, 2021, and organisers are insisting they will go ahead in some form — and be safe for all involved.
Drugs companies are racing to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 970,000 people around the world and infected almost 32 million.
Several leading vaccine candidates are currently in late-stage trials.
Bach said it was impossible to make a contingency plan for every scenario, and said organisers would not be pressured into making premature announcements on how the Games would take place.
“We have to work diligently and we have to work comprehensively, and then at the appropriate time take the right decisions,” he said. “I’m sure that we will make... these Olympic Games, which will be historic in different respects, we will make it a success, and we will make it a success together.”
The virus has maintained its global spread in recent months, casting a shadow over the viability of the postponed Games but Bach was optimistic about efforts to fight it.
“We also have very encouraging news about the development of vaccines,” he said.
Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke by telephone on Wednesday and agreed to cooperate closely to stage a safe and secure Games for athletes and spectators.
“We are sitting together in one boat. The only thing we have to do now is to row in the same direction,” Bach told the meeting, in which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and other officials participated.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2020