Olympic movement united for Tokyo

IOC president Bach says all are committed, after Japan slams reports that it wants out

Should the Tokyo Olympic Games be cancelled, Swimming Australia has already mooted plans for a replacement competition. Two-time Olympic sprint relay champion Cate Campbell (above) thinks it is a "wonderful idea".
Should the Tokyo Olympic Games be cancelled, Swimming Australia has already mooted plans for a replacement competition. Two-time Olympic sprint relay champion Cate Campbell (above) thinks it is a "wonderful idea".PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY • The entire Olympic movement is united in its determination to ensure the Tokyo Games will take place in July and August, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said in a video message to mark the six-month countdown to the opening ceremony.

The Times of London reported on Friday that Tokyo was looking to get out of hosting the Games, drawing sharp criticism and flat denials.

The Japanese government dismissed the report, while Japan Olympic Committee head Yasuhiro Yamashita told Reuters it was a "fabrication" and "wrong".

Bach did not directly address The Times report, or mention by name the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the postponement of the Games from last year, but said he was confident that they would go ahead from July 23 to Aug 8.

"Six months ahead of the Games, the entire Olympic movement is looking forward to the opening ceremony on July 23," he said.

"I had the opportunity today to speak with all the 206 national Olympic committees of the world and they are all fully committed and looking forward to the Games. We are enjoying the full support of the Japanese government.

"We had another consultation with all the IOC members, everybody is really determined to make these Olympic Games the light at the end of the tunnel.

"All the prospects are good, we are working hard, the first priority will be to make the Games safe and secure for all participants."

Much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Bach conceded it would be a "huge undertaking" to get the Games under way. But he noted that organisers were looking at "all scenarios" and had a "huge toolbox" of measures which they would implement depending on the prevailing health conditions.

"This goes from immigration rules, from quarantine rules, over to social distancing in the Olympic village, to the question of rapid testing, vaccination, to the question of spectators, how many? Can there be spectators?" he said.

The 67-year-old said the IOC's athletes' commission had told him that despite the many difficulties the pandemic presented to the prospective Olympians, enthusiasm remained high.

"We know how passionate Olympic athletes are and this is why we know they will be flexible and they will adjust to this situation we are all in now," Bach said.

For some athletes, delaying their preparations for a year has taken a toll and they are hoping that the Games will take place after all their additional hard work.

American gymnast Simone Biles, who won four golds in Rio 2016, admitted on the Today Show on Friday that these Olympics could possibly be her last.

The 23-year-old said: "I definitely do feel older every morning whenever I wake up and I go into the gym. So, I'm just really listening to my body and seeing how it goes. My main focus is the 2021 Olympics, then we'll see."

Meanwhile, Swimming Australia has started discussions about a replacement domestic or virtual international competition for its athletes if the Olympics are cancelled.

"If the worst happens and Tokyo is cancelled, for our athletes who have had the opportunity to prepare and work so hard for so long to get to this moment, I think it behoves us to give them the best chance to at least test themselves and see what that work has created," its president Kieren Perkins told The Australian newspaper.

Two-time Olympic sprint relay champion Cate Campbell, 28, told the paper she thought it was a "wonderful idea", even if she desperately wanted to swim at her fourth Olympics in Tokyo.

"Will it be the same? Absolutely not. But it is something worth exploring and asking athletes if it is something they would like to do, absolutely,"she said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2021, with the headline 'Olympic movement united for Tokyo'. Subscribe