IOC Seeks to Reassure the Sporting World, Charts Course Towards Tokyo Games
January 27, 2021 Oli Rosenbladt, row2k.com
In an hour-long press conference on January 27th, IOC President Thomas Bach sought to dispel the ongoing doubt about whether the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games would occur as scheduled, stating that presently the IOC is focused primarily on "how" to hold the Olympic Games, not whether the Games will happen, and urging patience given the extraordinary uncertainties involved.
"We are not losing our time and energy on speculation. We are fully concentrating on the Opening Ceremony on 23 July this year. We are not speculating on whether the Games are taking place. We are working on how the Games will take place," Bach said.
Bach also stated that all 206 IOC national member federations were "united and committed" to seeing the Olympics through.
Beyond the simple fact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympics also faces serious headwinds within Japan itself, as polling shows a reported 80% of the Japanese population is opposed to holding the Games at all.
Bach also dismissed any talk about cancellation as "speculation," indicating that the IOC was continuing to stay abreast of the situation, as was committed to distributing "so-called playbooks" to national federations in the coming weeks that would give more concrete frameworks and timetables for how the Olympics and Paralympics could continue to be held during the ongoing crisis.
"These speculations only hurt the athletes in their preparations, who have already overcome challenges in their training or competitions as a result of this virus," said Bach.
"This fight against the virus, as you all know from your personal circumstances, is a tough one. But we are fighting this fight for, and like, Olympic athletes. This means with full determination, with a will to win, with hard work every day, and with all the physical and mental strength we have."
Bach was blunt that he could not speak with any finality to what the actual Games would look like, with respect to additional safety and hygiene measures such as excluding spectators and/or members of the media.
"At this point, it is too early to say specifically which countermeasures we will be using, so we are asking for patience and understanding," said Bach. "Everyone, the athletes and the NOCs, can trust that we will share the facts and our planned countermeasures as the situation develops."
"Nobody at this moment can predict the health situation in 206 National Olympic Committees for the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, from late July until September of this year – not even the most prominent scientists in this area. This leads, you may say naturally, you can also say unfortunately, to much speculation. But all this speculation is hurting the athletes in their preparations, who have already overcome the challenges in their daily training and competition with all the restrictions they are facing, either in their country or when it comes to travelling.
"There is speculation about cancellation; I heard about a plan B, about everything. Some even make the proposal to postpone the Olympic Games in Tokyo to the year 2032. I want to say good luck, if you would have to discuss this with an athlete who is preparing for the Olympic Games in 2021. There are some proposals to move it to another city. Everybody who knows about the complexity of Olympic Games knows this is not possible. They're in such a short period of time."
Among the plans that Bach detailed was a rolling attendance plan for Olympic athletes; athletes would not arrive in the Olympic village more than 5 days prior to their event, and would be required to depart within 48 hours of their event concluding, which would certainly be very different than prior Olympics. Bach also made it clear that the IOC is not requiring that athletes be vaccinated prior to the Olympics, insisting that the IOC's position is that athletes should not "jump the queue."