International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach believes the Tokyo 2020 Games will provide the “light at the end of the tunnel” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bach also insisted the event has the “full support” of Japanese officials after a report in the Times claimed the country’s government has “privately concluded” that the Olympics and Paralympics will have to be called off due to rising coronavirus rates.
In a video message published by the IOC on Friday night, Bach said: “Six months ahead of the Games, the entire Olympic movement is looking forward to the opening ceremony on July 23.
VNR for the media: International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach discusses preparations for Olympic Games @Tokyo2020 with six months to go until the Opening Ceremony https://t.co/I2DLUxuKh6 #Olympics pic.twitter.com/57BNMMgXhH
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) January 22, 2021
“I had the opportunity today to speak with all the 206 National Olympic Committees of the world and they are all fully committed and looking forward to the Games. We are enjoying the full support of the Japanese government.
“We had another consultation with all the IOC members yesterday and everybody is really determined to make this Olympic Games the light at the end of the tunnel, in which at this moment we are all still in.
“The athletes will enter the Olympic Stadium on July 23 with full pride and sending an important message, not only to the world of sport, but to the entire world a message of resilience, of Olympic passion and Olympic values, like solidarity and peace.”
Earlier, the IOC issued a statement in which it referenced the response of the Japanese government in describing the Times report as “categorically untrue”, adding: “The IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.”
IOC statement on media reports regarding Tokyo 2020 pic.twitter.com/647pj5mx9U
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) January 22, 2021
There is mounting uncertainty over the Games with coronavirus rates growing worldwide and much of the wider Tokyo region having been plunged into a state of emergency earlier this month.
But Bach added: “We are working to prepare for all the potential scenarios we may face.
“We are putting together a huge toolbox of measures and then we will decide at the appropriate time which of the tools we need to address the situation.
“This goes from immigration rules, to quarantine rules, over to social distancing in the Olympic village, to the question of rapid testing, to the question of vaccination, and the question of spectators, and how life in the Olympic Village will be organised.
“It is a really huge undertaking but we are very much encouraged in this that big sporting events, even world championships, are happening and are being organised in a safe and secure way, even without the access to any kind of vaccination.
“Everybody can rest assured our first priority is a safe and secure Olympic Games.”
'The IPC, IOC, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and all delivery partners are fully committed and focussed on delivering safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer'
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) January 22, 2021
Bach’s remarks come with a growing number of figures, including the former London 2012 chief executive Sir Keith Mills, having expressed doubts over whether the Games will take place, while athletes are calling for clarity.
The statement by the Japanese government read: “Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue.
“We will be implementing all possible countermeasures against Covid-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.”
The International Paralympic Committee was more bullish than the IOC, describing the advances in preparations since the Games were initially delayed last year, and re-stating its commitment to issuing its ‘Playbooks’ – detailing its specific hosting plans – to major stakeholders early next month.
The IPC said: “Compared to March 2020, we now know much more about how the Covid-19 virus behaves, much more about how to organise safe sport events during a pandemic and are encouraged by the international roll-out of several vaccines.
“By the time of the Games this summer, we are optimistic that daily case numbers will be much lower than during these dark winter months.
“We are also confident that the extensive testing programme to be implemented before, during and after the Games – one of several measures that will be taken targeting Games stakeholders – will help minimise the risk of virus transmission.
“Finally, each sport event that has taken place globally since the outbreak of the virus has provided us all with valuable learning experiences which are helping to continually shape our plans for Tokyo.
“There is no doubt the Tokyo 2020 Games will be very different to any previous Games and that this summer’s event looks a long way off right now.
“However, we believe that with the robust measures and plans we have in place, the Games can and will go ahead safely.”
Double Paralympic silver medallist and former world champion Stef Reid insisted the continuing speculation is doing nothing to help athletes in their preparations for the Games.
She tweeted: “This is exhausting. If it is true, make it official.”