February 25, 2021
Wednesday, 24 February
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has insisted that "everybody who wants to see can see that it is possible" to stage this year's Olympics safely in Tokyo.
Doubts remain over the Games because of the coronavrius pandemic, which last year led the IOC and the Japanese Government to take the unprecedented step of postponing the event by a year.
Bach was asked about Tokyo 2020 following a remote IOC Executive Board (EB) meeting today, and in particular the Japanese public's apparent lack of support for the event going ahead.
Opinion polls conducted in recent months found that the majority of Japanese people and companies favour the Games either being postponed again - something the IOC says is not on the table - or cancelled.
"I can only state what I have said many times, that from a human a point of view I can understand very well that during such a pandemic that people are skeptical, that they have doubts about their personal future, the future of their employers, the future of their lives," Bach said.
"In this respect it does not come as a surprise that they also have skeptical feelings about the Olympic Games."
Bach added that there "is a clear commitment of the IOC, of the Japanese Government, of the Organising Committee, of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, that these Games will provide a safe environment for all the participants".
This includes "far-reaching anti-COVID measures" which are being devised and implemented.
The IOC President also pointed to other major events which taken place amid the pandemic, such as tennis Grand Slams, as evidence that a safe and secure Olympics and Paralympics is possible.
New Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto addressed the International Olympic Committee Executive Board for the first time today ©Getty Images
These "have shown that it is possible and how it is possible and you have not heard from any of these host countries [that] there are any concerns with rising corona figures after such World Championships or big sports events," Bach claimed.
The Nippon Professional Baseball season and and International Gymnastics Federation exhibition event in Tokyo were two examples of sporting events taking place in Japan which Bach cited specifically.
Tokyo is under a state of emergency at present, but COVID-19 case numbers are falling and the capital reported fewer than 200 new daily cases for the first time in almost three months earlier this week.
The global rollout of vaccines - something Bach has consistently said will not be a "silver bullet" to rescue the Olympics - has also boosted optimism surrounding Tokyo 2020, although Japan's rollout only started this month and Vaccine Minister Taro Kono warned that inoculation of the elderly would only start "little by little" because of a shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine until May.
Japan has so far approved only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be stored in an ultra-cold freezer.
The IOC Executive Board (EB) heard from new Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto for the first time today.
Seven-time Olympian Hashimoto assumed the role earlier this month following the resignation of Yoshirō Mori, who was forced to step down after making sexist remarks.
Hashimoto was "very warmly welcomed by all members of the EB", said Bach, who also praised the "seamless transfer of power".
Bach added that Hashimoto's priorities pf "safety, gender equality and legacy" are "fully-aligned with the vision of delivering safe and secure Games for everybody", as well as Olympic Agenda 2020.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic are scheduled to begin on July 23 - less than five months away.