Less than a year from the scheduled date of the Olympics, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, declared, Monday, November 16, "very confident" about the presence of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 expected next summer after being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus.
The upsurge in infections across the world and the renewal of containment measures in some countries have revived doubts about the possibility of organizing the Games if the pandemic is not brought under control in the first half of 2021.
The IOC "is making great efforts"
After an interview in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Thomas Bach praised the measures to fight the coronavirus being prepared by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the Japanese government. "We are in the process of putting together a huge toolbox in which we will put all the measures we can imagine," said the IOC boss.
Next year, “we will be able to take [the] right tools out of this box and use them to ensure a safe environment for all Games participants,” he added. “It makes us very, very confident that we will be able to have spectators in the Olympic stadiums next year. Thomas Bach, who is on a two-day visit to Tokyo, also pledged that the IOC "goes to great lengths" to ensure that as many participants and spectators as possible are vaccinated before they arrive. in Japan, if a vaccine is available by next July.
A further postponement is not possible
With this trip to Tokyo, Thomas Bach hopes to convince the athletes, the Japanese population and the sponsors of the Games that they can indeed be held next summer. The Japanese public remains skeptical, however, and more than 60% of national sponsors have not yet committed to extend their contracts for another year, local media reported this weekend.
But Olympic organizers and Japanese officials insisted that a further postponement was not an option and that a cancellation was even less on the agenda. Last Tuesday, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee expressed its "relief" after Pfizer announced the discovery of an anti-Covid vaccine that is 90% effective. But he immediately stressed that he was continuing to prepare for the Games even without a vaccine, with prevention and control measures.
Very strict rules for athletes from abroad
On November 8, the Japanese capital hosted its first international sporting event since the onset of the health crisis, a friendly gymnastics tournament in which around thirty Japanese, American, Chinese and Russian athletes participated, under the eyes of 2,000 spectators. .
The organizers of the event had set very strict rules for athletes coming from abroad: they were forced to isolate themselves before the start, tested every day on site, and their movements were limited. The spectators were also subjected to restrictions (masks, disinfection of the hands, taking of temperature, prohibition to shout in order not to spread postilions).
A "proof that humanity has conquered the virus"
Decisions on the number of spectators at the Olympics next year or on the rules for the public will be taken next spring, said last Thursday Toshiro Muto, general manager of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. He specified that the rules quarantine could be lifted for foreign spectators.
The Japanese Prime Minister wanted to be optimistic on Monday, reaffirming that the next Games would serve as "proof that humanity has overcome the virus". “Together, we can make these Olympic Games and the Olympic flame the light at the end of the tunnel we all find ourselves in with this coronavirus crisis,” added Thomas Bach.