Olympics on 'Solid Ground'

Olympics on 'Solid Ground'

January 28, 2021

TOKYO • Tokyo Olympics organisers said yesterday they were encouraged by the support of International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach and felt on “solid ground” to hold the virus-postponed event, despite growing debate over its feasibility.

Bach briefed organisers in Tokyo on his discussions with other groups involved in the Games, including athletes, Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said.

“He confirmed everybody’s intention, and there were no questioning voices or opposition from anyone or anywhere. Everybody had a strong feeling that they want to go to the Tokyo Games,” Mori said. “We are still on solid ground… Bach gave us his strong stance, and we are thankful for that.”

Doubts have soared about the July 23-Aug 8 Games as the pandemic continues to paralyse many countries and with large parts of Japan, including Tokyo, under a state of emergency.

Tokyo’s first Olympic test event this year, an artistic swimming competition, was yesterday postponed by two months from March 4 to May 1 because of travel restrictions. The Games organising committee announced that the first of 18 test events for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will now involve wheelchair rugby, which will be held in Yoyogi National Stadium from April 3-4.

Despite falling public support in Japan, the United States, China, Australia and Canada have all backed the Games, as have several top athletes.

“Our expectation today is that the Games will go forward,” US Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland told Team USA athletes in an open letter on Wednesday.

“They will look and feel different than any previous Games, as we will all be asked to continue to make sacrifices and adaptations to protect the health of our community.”

US Senator Mitt Romney also threw his support behind the Tokyo Olympics this summer, saying the Games should be held with a limit on spectators at venues and would serve as an inspiration for the world during the pandemic.

His comments accompanied his tweet of a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article quoting a Tokyo organising committee member Haruyuki Takahashi as saying whether the Games are held as planned could come down to support from the US and new President Joe Biden.

The IOC told the WSJ Takahashi’s “comments are obsolete” but the US brings the largest contingent of athletes to any Olympics and also provides the IOC with its most lucrative television deal.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also told the IOC that China will support it to ensure the Games will go ahead, Muto revealed.

“One year ago, there was a certain mood. Now it’s completely different. Many voices are being raised, wanting to go to Tokyo as soon as possible,” he added.

“During the athletes’ committee, there was an atmosphere – ‘Even if there are various circumstances, let’s make a new Olympics by themselves by overcoming the circumstances.’ (Bach) told us that he was so moved.”

Greek pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, who led calls for last year’s postponement, has said she would prefer the Olympics to be held with no fans rather than not at all.

Top US gymnast Simone Biles said the decision had to be based on “what’s safe for the world”, but added she was “hoping the Olympics can be put on, even if it means we’re in a bubble”.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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