Bach: Cancellation of Tokyo Olympics was never an option
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has insisted that the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympic Games was “never an option” as it needed to fulfil its commitment to the athletes.
The games, already delayed from last year and heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, are set to begin, with the opening ceremony, on Friday.
However, amid rising Covid-19 cases, Toshiro Muto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, has conceded that a last-minute cancellation cannot be ruled out.
Preparations for the games have been complicated by the pandemic, with restrictions on the movements of athletes, team support staff, officials and media, and attendance by spectators at events having been ruled out after a fourth state of emergency was introduced in the Tokyo region.
Bach admitted that the rescheduling of the Olympics had “caused sleepless nights” but that the IOC was always determined to proceed with the games.
Speaking on the occasion of the IOC session in Tokyo, he said: “We did it together. We did it for the athletes. The IOC never abandons its athletes. Cancellation would have been the easy way for us. We could have drawn on the insurance that we had at the time and moved on to Paris 2024.
“But in fact, cancellation was never an option for us. In order to arrive at this day today, we had to give confidence. We had to show a way out of this crisis. We had to provide stability. We had to build trust. We had to give hope.”
Pressed on whether the games could yet be called off if there is a surge of Covid-19 infections, Muto was guarded, saying: “We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases.
“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
Bach, who was this year re-elected for a further four-year term as IOC president, said in a speech at the start of the IOC session: “I can admit that we did not know how complex this (organising the Olympics amid a pandemic) would be. There was no blueprint. Nobody had ever done this before.
"Over the past 15 months, we had to take daily decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and discussed. There were sleepless nights. Like everyone else in the world, we did not know, I did not know, what the future would hold.
"Imagine for a moment what it would have meant if the leader of the Olympic movement, the IOC, would have added to the already many doubts surrounding the Olympic Games. It would have poured fuel on to this fire. Our doubts could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Olympic Games could have fallen to pieces. That is why we had to keep these doubts to ourselves.”
The games are set to take place despite considerable scepticism from the Japanese public, with a poll this week showing that 68 per cent of the population have doubts about the ability of the organisers to control infections, while 55 per cent are opposed to them taking place.
The Olympics are scheduled to run to 8 August and will be followed by the similarly delayed Paralympics, from 24 August to 5 September.
The pandemic, and the one-year postponement of the Olympics, has had a significant impact on IOC finances, with the organisation today reporting a $55 million deficit for 2020.
The IOC generated revenue of $623.8 million, with Olympics broadcast rights income pushed back to this year.
However, the body clamied that it remained in a strong financial position with fund balances, of assets exceeding liabilities, of almost $2.5 billion.
In developments at the IOC session, ski mountaineering was approved as an additional sport at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan Cortina in Italy.
The programme will involve sprint and individual events for men and women and a mixed-gender relay event.
The decision comes after the sport featured at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne.
Meanwhile, six international sports federations were granted full IOC recognition, namely the International Cheerleading Union (ICU), the International Federatoin of Muaythai Associations (IFMA), the International Sambo Federation (FIAS), The International Federation Icestocksport (IFI), the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO) and World Lacrosse (WL).