Tokyo 2020 One more day to go

Games are a 'Ray of hope'

WHO boss confident that measures put in place by Japan can stop virus spread

TOKYO • The Tokyo Olympics should go ahead to demonstrate to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures amid the Covid-19 pandemic, World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday.

Speaking to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in Tokyo, he added that the world needed the Olympics now "as a celebration of hope" even as the virus continues to ravage the world.

"The Olympics have the power to bring the world together, to inspire, to show what's possible," he said, holding aloft an Olympic Games torch. "May the rays of hope from this land illuminate a new dawn for a healthy, safer and fairer world. It is my sincere hope the Tokyo Games succeed."

While he admitted it was inevitable that there would be Covid-19 cases as a result of the Olympics, he also expressed his confidence in the virus countermeasures put in place by Japanese authorities to stop infections.

"The mark of success...is not zero risk. I know that some cases have already been detected," he said.

"The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted."

Separately, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, 72, denied he was pressured by the IOC into holding a Games that remains deeply unpopular as virus cases surge in Tokyo.

And with just two days until the opening ceremony, the Japanese leader said Tokyo is "in the right place, and we're ready to go".

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he insisted he was "absolutely not" pushed into going ahead with the Games.

"We raised our hands and we sought the Olympics because we wanted to do it," he said in the interview published yesterday. "If they tried to force something on me, I'd kick it right back at them."

Coronavirus infections continued to take a toll among those involved with the Games, however, with at least seven more positive cases yesterday taking the total to more than 75 since the count began at the beginning of the month.

One of them was Chilean taekwondo exponent Fernanda Aguirre, who will not be able to compete and will be required to isolate for 10 days or more.

There were two more cases at the Olympic Village. Website Inside The Games said Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs and Czech table tennis player Pavel Sirucek had tested positive.

The British team also suffered a blow to their gold-medal hopes after Amber Hill, ranked No. 1 in the world in women's skeet shooting, withdrew after she tested positive for Covid-19 before departure.

She had been a finalist at Rio 2016 and said: "There are no words to describe how I feel right now. I will be back from this, but right now, I need some time to reflect and take in what has happened."

REUTERS. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2021, with the headline 'Games are a 'Ray of hope''. Subscribe