(ATR) IOC president Thomas Bach’s first full day in Tokyo included awarding the Olympic Order to former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, meetings with new prime minister Yoshihide Suga and Japanese governor Yuriko Koike, as well as kicking off the IOC-IPC Project Review for the Tokyo 2020 Games with organizing committee leaders Yoshiro Mori and Toshiro Muto.
Thomas Bach meets with Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga. (IOC)
Following his meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Bach once again expressed his faith and absolute confidence in cooperation with the IOC’s Japanese partners and friends.
“We share the great commitment of the prime minister that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will happen next year,” Bach said. “We are determined that safe Olympic Games will be a symbol of solidarity and unity.”
Bach, sitting alongside Tokyo 2020 president Mori at an end of the day news conference, addressed a question about why people should care about an event nine months from now, considering they are living in uncertainty day-to-day due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to explain why and how the Olympic Games next July and the Paralympic Games next August can be the light at the end of this tunnel,” Bach said, addressing reporters in Tokyo and virtually.
“Sport is a great preventive measure in times of the pandemic, refinement, isolation and uncertainty,” he said. “This role of sport has been widely acknowledged by the World Health Organization and by many governments, and non-governmental organizations around the globe.
“We have seen in particular here in Japan, that even under the conditions now you can organize safe sports events,” he continued. “We have seen this in their professional leagues, in particular in baseball, with games even under the restrictions now with spectators and very successfully.
“We have seen this wonderful event of the Friendship and Solidarity Gymnastics under the great leadership of Morinari Watanabe,” Bach said of the November 7 event in Tokyo which included gymnasts from Japan, China, Russia and the United States and which approximately 2,000 spectators were allowed inside the arena.
Bach used the analogy of the IOC to utilizing a toolbox to work on and fix all challenges and issues moving forward, while once again noting the successful and safe sporting events being carried out.
Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike greet safely. (IOC)
“Now, nine months ahead of the Olympic Games and based on this success we can even be more confident because in nine months from now, we will have even more COVID countermeasures in our toolbox than we have now.
“We are fully aligned with the primer minister and governor Koike that we have a toolbox that can and will ensure the Games in a safe environment. This is what we will organize together with our Japanese partners and friends.
“We will make these Olympic Games then a great symbol of solidarity, of humanity, a symbol of resilience and being the light indeed at the end of this coronavirus time.
Tokyo 2020 president Mori added: “We are exhaustingly making efforts during a difficult time. We should try to work so we can live up to the expectations of the Japanese people.
“Sports events are resumed and people are expressing empathy – this is the emotion of the people, we must build momentum and we are exhaustingly taking all measures.”
The IOC president said he was assured seeing the Japanese public taking coronavirus rules and regulations very seriously, something that he hopes that other nations will follow to prevent virus hotspots.
“I am really impressed by the discipline of the Japanese people,” Bach said. “Some experiences I had to make in Europe were quite different.
“This discipline in the end also makes the difference. “I haven’t seen a single person, not respecting the rules. For me, this respect makes the difference.
“We also have, out of the respect of the rules here in Japan, we have taken with our delegation, the IOC delegations was in a self-quarantine for one week before coming here and before taking the final test before coming on the airplane.
Bach and a small IOC contingent arrived to Tokyo via a chartered flight.
On the second day of his trip to the Japanese capital, the IOC president is expected to visit the Olympic and Paralympic Village, in addition to Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
Olympic Order for Shinzo Abe
Bach presented the former prime minister Abe with the Olympic Movement’s highest honor, the Olympic Order in Gold, during an afternoon visit to the Japan Olympic Museum.
Bach awards Shinzo Abe the Olympic Order (IOC)
Abe, who stepped down in late August citing a recurring illness, significantly contributed to Tokyo winning the 2020 Games in August 2013 and also made a surprise appearance at the Rio 2016 closing ceremony dressed in costume.
“When Tokyo was selected as the host for the Olympic Games 2020 by the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in 2013, it marked the starting point of a special Olympic journey for Abe Shinzo,” Bach said in a speech at the museum. “From the very beginning of the candidature, he played an invaluable role in bringing the Olympic Games back to Tokyo for the first time since 1964.
“Ever since that October day in Buenos Aires, you have demonstrated your unwavering commitment to the Olympic Games and the Olympic values.
This was evident in all your personal engagement in overseeing and supporting the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. With your unfaltering belief in the power of sport, it is no exaggeration to say that you have forged a special friendship with the Olympic community.
“On a personal note, the fact that Tokyo was selected at the same Session that I was elected IOC President gives this bond even more significance to me.”
Written by Brian Pinelli
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