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IOC: Olympics can bring world together

Lausanne, Switzerland—The International Olympic Committee insisted Wednesday that it was fully focused on implementing the Tokyo Games, calling them a “tentpole moment that can bring the world together”.

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed from last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic and are now re-scheduled for July 23-August 8.

But their hosting has been questioned not only by a Japanese public in a country battling a surge in coronavirus cases, but also top sportspeople such as tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams insisted, however, that the Games would be a “key moment for the world”.

“We are now very much in an implementation phase,” Adams said.

“With 78 days to go, we are fully concentrated on the last implementation phase.

“We are moving full ahead... and continue to plan for a full Games. We are confident we can deliver a good Games and we’re working towards that.”

Adams added: “We understand the caution of people. We understand that these are tough times.”

So tough, in fact, that IOC president Thomas Bach was this week forced to postpone a visit to Japan after a coronavirus state of emergency was extended.

Bach’s trip was scheduled for May 17-18 but organisers “decided to postpone it based on various situations including the (government’s) extension of a virus state of emergency”.

“In terms of Japan and Tokyo we understand the caution,” Adams said.

“We are fully in solidarity with them. People are very cautious. We have to fully trust Japanese authorities.”

Give Japan confidence

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak remains much smaller than in many countries, with just over 10,500 deaths.

But its vaccine rollout is moving slowly and some areas have seen record cases as more infectious variants drive fresh waves of contagion.

More than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries and regions are set to travel to Tokyo for the Games, with a decision on how many domestic fans—if any—can attend to be taken in June.

Speaking from Lausanne, Adams expressed hope that the 12 test events held in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan since April would give the Japanese people “confidence that the Games can be held in a safe and secure way”.

He also played down recent polls that showed most Japanese people supporting the cancellation or another delay of the Olympics, saying that when they start “public opinion will be in favour of the Games”.

Adams also highlighted the confidence shown in the IOC by the UN health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), which backed the IOC, Japan and host city Tokyo to make the right choices in managing the Covid-19 risks surrounding the Games.

“WHO came with a very strong message of confidence I hope that that... will also give the Japanese people confidence.”

Last week, the IOC struck a deal with US drugs giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to provide vaccines to competitors and staff at the Tokyo Games.

And Adams tried to strike a reassuring note about the Olympic Village, which will be host to thousands of people from hundreds of different countries. 

“We estimate that a large majority of those in the Olympic Village will be vaccinated,” he said.

“I won’t give you a figure but it’s a large and growing number.”

Topics: International Olympic Committee , Tokyo Olympics , Japan , Mark Adams , COVID-19
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