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Tokyo 2020 likely to go ahead with fans present despite rise in Japan’s coronavirus cases, says IOC boss

Olympics were postponed earlier this year and are now due to take place next summer

Mari Saito,Jack Tarrant
Monday 16 November 2020 11:44 GMT
IOC president Thomas Bach in Tokyo ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games
IOC president Thomas Bach in Tokyo ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games (Getty Images)

International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach said on Monday that he is confident the Tokyo Games will be held as planned next year, with spectators present despite a notable rise in coronavirus cases around the world.

Bach's visit of Tokyo could well boost Japan's efforts to stage the Olympics despite the public's concern about the spread of the disease.

Among the IOC chief's key topics of discussion with organisers are whether or not to permit the entry of spectators and ensuring safe accommodation for over 11,000 athletes arriving from various countries around the world.

The visit is Bach's first to the Japanese capital since he and former prime minister Shinzo Abe decided in March to postpone the 2020 Games until next year.

READ MORE: No 14-day quarantine for Tokyo Games fans or athletes

On Monday, Bach fist-bumped Japan's new premier, Yoshihide Suga, and told Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike they could be confident a vaccine would be available by next summer.

The IOC will arrange to ensure the vaccination of both participants and visitors before they arrive in Japan, he added.

"In order to protect the Japanese people, and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that [...] the Olympic participants and visitors will arrive here vaccinated if, by then, a vaccine is available," he said.

The IOC is now "very confident" that spectators will be able to attend the Games, he added.

News of a potentially successful vaccine from Pfizer Inc has lifted hopes for the staging of the Games, but public opinion in Japan remains mixed. Nearly 70 percent of respondents in a July poll told NHK, a public broadcaster, that the event should be further postponed or cancelled.

In contrast, most Japanese firms want the Games to go ahead next summer, even though they admit the event's contribution to the economy would be limited.

Last week Japan reported record new daily virus cases, though it has not suffered the high deaths seen elsewhere.

Bach called next year's games a "light at the end of the tunnel" after the world's pandemic battle, and pointed to recent sporting competitions in Japan as proof that events could already take place safely. This month, Tokyo successfully hosted an international gymnastics meet at which organisers tested a range of Covid-19 countermeasures.

On his Tokyo visit, Bach also awarded Abe the Olympic Order in gold, the IOC's highest accolade.

When premier, Abe made himself all but synonymous with Tokyo 2020, even famously appearing as video game character Mario at the closing ceremony of the Rio Games in 2016.

On Monday, Bach will hold a news conference with the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, and on Tuesday he is due to visit the newly-built National Stadium.


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