Thomas Bach

IOC president Thomas Bach looks to Tokyo Olympics, tasks they entail

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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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IOC preps for different scenarios for Tokyo Olympics in 2021

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IOC President Thomas Bach said there is no blueprint to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the first one-year postponement in Olympic history. Nevertheless, Bach said Wednesday that “good progress” is being made to hold the Games in summer 2021.

“At the same time, because of this uncertainty, we have to think different scenarios,” Bach told Mike Tirico on NBCSN’s Lunch Talk Live. “We don’t know how the world will look like by then. We have to consider already now whether there will be measures necessary for access to Japan, for instance. Do we maybe need quarantine for athletes from different countries or for all the athletes from all the countries? How can this be managed? Do we need special measures for access to the venues? How many people can access the venues? This is part of this mammoth task.”

Bach said keys in the beginning of the 2021 process included securing the Olympic village and venues.

The IOC is following advice from the World Health Organization when it comes to the coronavirus and public safety. Bach was asked by Tirico whether a coronavirus vaccine was necessary for the Olympics to happen.

“We have established one principle at the very beginning of all this discussion, way before the postponement [was announced], and this is that the Games must be organized offering a safe environment for all the participants,” Bach said. “At this moment, nobody can give you a reliable answer to the question of how the world will look like in in one year and two months from now. What we can say is we are committed, and we stick to this principle — safe Games for everybody.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said before the postponement was announced March 24 that the Games cannot be postponed beyond summer 2021, Bach reiterated to the BBC on Wednesday.

“He made it very clear from the beginning that summer 2021 is the last option,” said Bach, who made similar comments to German media in mid-April. “Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this because you cannot forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organizing committee. You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty. You cannot have so much overlapping for the future Olympic Games.”

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IOC president: Tokyo organizers inspired confidence, but global spread forced hand

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Tuesday and Wednesday that the changing situation of the international coronavirus outbreak forced the IOC to postpone the 2020 Olympics despite his confidence that Tokyo organizers could put on the Olympics safely.

“We see the beginning of an outbreak in Africa, which is very dangerous,” Bach told NBC’s Mike Tirico on Tuesday. “We see an outbreak on some of the islands in Oceania. We see rapidly growing figures in South America, and we’ve heard the World Health Organization speaking about an acceleration of the virus. This was very alarming news on Sunday and Monday, and we also saw more travel restrictions all across the globe.”

READ: Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

News of the virus’ spread on Sunday prompted Bach to call an emergency meeting of the IOC executive board. At that point, Bach said, the question of holding the Games was no longer centered on Japan.

“The focus shifted very much,” Bach said. “At the beginning the question was, ‘Can our Japanese partners and friends offer safe conditions for safe Games for the athletes and everybody involved?’ There we saw good progress with the numbers in Japan. We saw measures being taken which made us confident that indeed Japan, in four and a half months, could offer safe Games.

“Then we had this wave of the spreading of the virus all over the world, so now the question was a very different one: ‘Can Japan receive all these people together from all over the world? Can the athletes, can everybody travel safely? What are the restrictions in the different countries?’ When we saw this shift, we reacted quickly.”

Bach reiterated this shift in focus Wednesday in a teleconference with international journalists:

“We could see, on the one hand, the progress being made in Japan fighting the virus and the efficiency of the measures being taken. But we had to see, on the other side, the virus was spreading so rapidly that it became more and more a question of whether the world could travel to Japan and whether Japan could afford, in the spirit of containing the virus, to invite the world.”

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Even while the board was meeting on Sunday, new information came in about the virus spreading on islands in Oceania. The World Health Organization provided more alarming information on Monday.

“We were in line always with the advice of the World Health Organization,” Bach said Wednesday.

The IOC then accelerated a discussion of all of its options.

“Cancellation was discussed, like all of the options on the table, but it was clear cancellation should not be something the IOC would in any way favor because our mission is to organize Olympic Games and make the dreams of Olympic athletes come true,” Bach said Wednesday.

Bach struck an optimistic note in looking forward one year and noted that the Olympic flame will remain in Japan.

“We can really celebrate these Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020, together, and it will hopefully be a celebration of humanity after having overcome this unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus,” Bach told Tirico on Tuesday.

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