IOC President Thomas Bach said the Tokyo Olympics will be optimized and simplified in 2021, but the athlete experience will not be compromised.
“We will make sure the athletes will have this stage to shine, to which they are used in the Olympic Games, which they would have enjoyed from now on, from today on in Tokyo 2020,” Bach told NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico on Thursday, one year out from the Opening Ceremony.
Bach was asked about several key topics pertaining to the first postponed Olympics in modern history.
Could the Olympics be held without fans?
“This is clearly what we do not want,” he said. “It’s too early to speculate, but, again, the Olympic spirit would be at its best with full stadia.”
Where do you stand on the topic of perhaps needing a significant medical advancement or vaccine to hold the Olympics?
“We remain committed to this one overarching principle we have established already before the postponement — this means to organize the Olympic Games only by safeguarding the safety and the health of all people involved in the Olympic Games,” Bach said, noting close cooperation with experts, including the World Health Organization. “We will address the circumstances as they may arise.”
If the Olympics can’t be held in 2021, will they be postponed, or will they be canceled?
“This is speculation right now,” Bach said. “We are well-advised, and I would also like to ask the public, a little bit, not to speculate too much with the ifs and whens and how, because in many countries in the world, you do not know under which circumstances you can leave your house tomorrow or whether you can leave it at all.
“It’s really too much expected from us and the organizing committee to know today all the details of the biggest and most complex event in the world.”
Where do we stand on discussions regarding athlete demonstrations at the Olympics?
“It is important to emphasize that the athletes have manyfold opportunities to express themselves — in press conferences, in interviews, in social media, in team meetings, in conversations with their fellow athletes in the Olympic Village and so on,” Bach said. “Rule 50 [of the Olympic Charter, prohibiting “protests and demonstrations”] relates only to the field of play and the ceremonies.
“We want to see how, in a dignified and non-divisive ways, maybe new formats can be found for the athletes to show their support for one of the key messages of the Olympic Games, which is non-discrimination. The Olympic Games themselves are maybe one of the most powerful demonstrations of non-discrimination. … Everybody is being equal. Everybody is equally treated, respecting the same rules. I think this is really a powerful symbol of non-discrimination.”
Lastly, Bach looked ahead to the Opening Ceremony in exactly one year.
“This Opening Ceremony will first of all send the message which Olympic Games are always sending: this is the unity of humanity in all our diversity,” he said, sitting in front of an Olympic Flag and the torch Muhammad Ali used to light the 1996 Olympic cauldron. “But in Tokyo, it will be more. It will be a message of solidarity and a message of hope.”
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