TOKYO (Reuters) – International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Saturday that finally meeting Tokyo Olympics officials after months of virtual contacts was an “emotional” moment, less than a week before the start of the troubled Games.
The Games get under way on July 23 more than a year behind schedule due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and organisers have a mountain to climb in the coming days and weeks to ensure the global sporting showcase goes ahead safely.
Bach addressed an IOC Executive Board meeting in Tokyo shortly before the first positive COVID-19 case was reported within the Olympic athletes’ village.
“A very warm welcome to all of you. This is quite an emotional moment to see you in person around a real table again after I think about 17 or 15 months,” Bach said at the start of the meeting, which included a final progress report from the Japanese organisers.
“Many of you would not have seen each other since the Youth Games in Lausanne (in January 2020) and this appears to have happened in another age.
“You can see now how much this pandemic has changed the lives of everybody and how it affects our personal life but also our organisational life.
“But the more so it is great to see you, to feel your presence, to be able to look into each other’s eyes.”
The Games will be held without spectators and amid draconian COVID-19 safety measures, but the Japanese public remains largely opposed to the event amid a resurgence of infections.
(Reporting by Martin Pollard; writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Stephen Coates)