IOC confident of successful Tokyo Games despite rising Covid-19 cases in Japan

The International Olympic Committee is “fully concentrated on delivering the Games” in Tokyo this summer despite concerns over rising coronavirus cases in Japan.

The Japanese Government has extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas until the end of May, and a recent opinion poll in Japan showed strong support for the Games to be cancelled.

But the IOC executive board met in Lausanne on Wednesday and spokesperson Mark Adams said the Tokyo Games – which was postponed last summer because of the pandemic – will take place as planned between July 23 and August 8.

Thomas Bach
IOC president Thomas Bach has had to postpone a planned visit to Japan because of the Covid-19 pandemic (Mike Egerton/PA)

Adams said: “We are now very much in an implementation phase and fully concentrated on delivering the Games, which you can see by qualification around the world and the Test events that have taken place in Tokyo.

“Of course the IOC, like all organisations, has its insurance policies and so on.

“But we are fully, fully concentrated on the implementation phase of delivering an excellent Games, which will bring the world together and really mark something we are looking forward to.

“There are a lot of sporting events going on around the world and this one will be the real tentpole moment that will bring the world together.”

Games organisers have already taken the decision to prevent overseas spectators from attending.

A decision on how many – if any – home fans can attend is due to be taken next month, but Japanese tennis players Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori have both expressed concern about staging the Olympics in Tokyo amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

IOC president Thomas Bach’s planned visit to Japan this month has been postponed because of the existing state of emergency in the country.

Adams said: “We noted and fully understood the decision of the Japanese Government to extend the state of emergency. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people and in solidarity with them.

Naomi Osaka
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka expressed concern over staging the Olympics in Tokyo (Steven Paston/PA)

“We had been discussing a visit in May, plans to visit Tokyo and the Olympic Torch relay in Hiroshima.

“Given the extension of the emergency regulations we have with regret decided to postpone that.

“We hope we will be able to discuss something into the future when the state of emergency is lifted.”

The IOC has faced criticism over the proposed vaccination of athletes amid a slow roll-out in Japan, where less than three per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

Olympics Tokyo Test Event
Seiko Hashimoto (centre), president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, greets officials during an athletics test event for this summer’s Paralympics (Shuji Kajiyama/AP)

The World Health Organisation suggested in January that athletes should not jump the queue to get Covid-19 vaccinations so they can compete in Tokyo.

Under a deal struck between the IOC and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, vaccines will be made available to athletes in nations not in a position to prioritise jabs for those heading to the Japanese capital.

The IOC estimates that a “large majority” of athletes staying in the Olympic Village during the Games will have received Covid-19 vaccinations.

“On the Pfizer deal we have made it clear that the doses are on top of the programmes in countries,” Adams said.

“All of the offers we are making must fit in to the programmes of those countries.

“We are reasonably confident about that and it also shows that athletes are leading the way in getting people vaccinated.

“That’s a very important message which should not be underestimated, and we are working flat out to try and help as many athletes who wish to be vaccinated.

“We understand the caution of people because these are tough times, but we have trust in the Japanese authorities and the plans they are working on.

“On our part with the organising committee we have developed the playbooks (books which outline the Covid-19 rules) to provide a safe and secure Games.

“The figures from our test events in Tokyo and Japan should give Japanese people confidence that these Games can be held in a very safe and secure way.”

A ‘David O’Brien’ was invited to ask the final question.

He was waving a black flag with ‘No Olympics in Tokyo’ written on it and said: ‘No Olympics anywhere. No Olympics anywhere. F**k the Olympics. We don’t want the Olympics anywhere. No Olympics in LA, no Olympics in Tokyo. F**k the Olympics.”

He was then cut off and IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said: “On that great note I’m sorry to disappoint you it was me and not the President (Thomas Bach) today. It probably would have made that stunt a little bit more interesting. I’m used to it so that’s fine.”