BERLIN (Reuters) – IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday the International Olympic Committee was fully committed to the successful organisation of the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though much of Japan is under a state of emergency because of a third wave of infections, Bach said all stakeholders were committed to pressing ahead as planned with the rescheduled Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
Bach said any speculation about the Tokyo Olympics, including talk of postponement or cancellation, was not helpful.
“We are losing our time and energy on speculation,” he said at a virtual news conference after the IOC’s first executive board of the year.
Asked at what stage the IOC would consider cancelling the Olympics, Bach said he would not “fuel speculation”.
“Our task is to organise Olympic Games and not to cancel Olympic Games. This is why we are working day and night to organise safe Olympic Games,” he said.
“We are not speculating whether the Games will take place. We are working on how the Games will take place,” he said, adding the IOC will issue guidelines for athletes and teams next month.
Many major issues, however, still remain unclear, including whether fans will attend or whether international visitors can travel to the country.
The IOC has already slashed the duration of athletes’ stay in Japan. They will now arrive shortly before their competitions and leave straight after in order to reduce the risk of infections.
“This I cannot tell you,” he said, when asked about full stadiums.
“Our priority is to ensure safe Olympic Games and we will do whatever is needed to organise safe Olympic Games,” he said.
“Everybody would love to have full capacity stadiums and roaring crowds but if this is not possible we will respect our principle and this is the safe organisation. This is the first priority.”
The IOC has also written to all 206 national Olympic committees to contact their governments on vaccines but Bach said no athlete should be vaccinated before the priority or high risk groups.
“We always made it clear we are not in favour of athletes jumping the queue,” Bach said.
“In the first lines must be the high risk groups, the health care workers and the people who keep our society alive. That is the first priority and this is a principle we have established.”
Recent polls in Japan showed around 80% were opposed to the event going ahead in July and some have suggested the Games should be cancelled.
Bach defended the Olympics, saying a number of international competitions are being held during the pandemic.
“Based on the counter measures and the experience of other events…it is clearly not irresponsible,” he said.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Pritha Sarkar)