No 'Plan B' in place for Olympics: Bach

IOC chief says there's no need for alternatives as there's no reason Games will not happen

The long path to the Tokyo Olympics has been littered with obstacles, from bid bribery allegations to fears over the summer heat.
The long path to the Tokyo Olympics has been littered with obstacles, from bid bribery allegations to fears over the summer heat.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The virus-delayed Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this summer, and there is "no plan B", International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach said yesterday.

"We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July," he told Kyodo News. "This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful."

With just over six months to go until the Olympics, doubts have grown about whether the massive international event will be viable with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the world.

Tokyo organisers have produced a raft of safety measures they say will allow the Games to go ahead, even if the pandemic is not under control, and without requiring vaccinations.

But public support in Japan is low, with around 80 per cent of respondents in recent polling favouring either a further delay or outright cancellation.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto told Agence France-Presse earlier this week that organisers were "unwavering" in their commitment to holding the Games this summer and that cancellation was not on the table.

Bach concurred, telling Kyodo "the priority is safety" and that the IOC may need to be "flexible" and make "sacrifices".

He also said the Beijing Winter Olympics would go ahead as planned in February next year.

The long path to Tokyo's second Summer Games has been littered with obstacles, from bid bribery allegations to fears over the summer heat.

But none has loomed as large as the pandemic, which last March forced the first postponement in modern Games history.

Greater Tokyo and other major cities like Osaka and Kyoto are under a state of emergency in an attempt to tackle a winter surge in Covid-19 cases, with restaurants and bars asked to close early and residents urged to work from home.

Japan's situation remains comparatively less serious to Europe and the Americas, with less than 4,700 deaths overall and over 339,000 cases.

But doctors say hospitals risk being overwhelmed in the hardest-hit areas, even as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has continued to insist his government remains committed to holding the Games as "proof of mankind's victory over the virus".

However, trade-offs will have to be made in order to pull off the Games and the presence of fans may be sacrificed to ensure safety.

There has never been a closed-door Olympics but Bach conceded he could not guarantee the stands will be full or rule out the possibility of no spectators.

A decision on whether foreign fans will be able to attend, and how many spectators will be possible, is expected this spring, if not as early as the end of next month.

Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the IOC, has hinted that their presence is uncertain.

"The question is, is this a 'must have' or 'nice to have'. It's nice to have spectators. But it's not a must have," the Canadian told Kyodo.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'No 'Plan B' in place for Olympics: Bach'. Subscribe