Olympics Chief Admits “Sleepless Nights” Over Troubled Tokyo Games

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Olympics chief Thomas Bach revealed “doubts” and “sleepless nights” over the postponed Tokyo Games on Tuesday as the opening ceremony nears after a year’s delay and coronavirus chaos that has made them deeply unpopular with the Japanese public. Bach, speaking at the International Olympic Committee session in Tokyo, said the unprecedented step of postponing the Games “weighed on me” as it proved more complicated than he thought. The build-up to Friday’s opening ceremony has been exceptionally rocky, with Tokyo still under a state of emergency and public opinion consistently against the Games, which will be held in large part without spectators.

“During the last 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts each day. We deliberated and discussed. There were sleepless nights,” said Bach.

“This also weighed on us, it weighed on me. But with a view to arrive at this day today we had to give confidence, had to show a way out of this crisis,” he added.

Bach has drawn scattered protests all over his visit to Japan, where the newest ballot in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed 55 percent of respondents oppose holding the Games now.

Five people have tested positive in the Olympic Village, heightening fears that the inflow of thousands of athletes, officials and media will add to a spike in cases in Japan.

The most recent case in the complex, Czech beach volleyball coach Simon Nausch, came a day after one of his players also tested positive.

‘Dark tunnel’

Olympic and Japanese officials have staunchly defended the Games, which are being held in a strict biosecure “bubble” with day-to-day testing. Approximately 80 percent of athletes have been vaccinated.

“We will be able to in spite of everything see at the end of the dark tunnel,” said Bach, adding: “Cancellation was once never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes… we did it for the athletes.”

Delegates unanimously approved an update of the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, to “Faster, Higher, Stronger — Together”, to mirror global solidarity all over the pandemic.

“We see all over the place the collaborative effort bringing faster and better solutions than working in silos,” said Bach.

Ski mountaineering, where competitors race up a mountain on foot and ski down it, was once also approved as a new sport for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina.

The changes were waved through at an ordinary IOC session, where mask-wearing delegates sat socially distanced at individual desks and the podium microphone was once wiped after each and every speaker.

On Wednesday, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will make a keynote address, and preferred bidder Brisbane — the sole candidate — is expected to be handed the 2032 Summer Games.

“This isn’t a done deal because it’s still up to the session to come to a decision,” insisted IOC communications director Mark Adams.

“They are able to come to a decision to put the issue back in the pot — there are still plenty of interested cities.”

The session precedes an Olympics which will chiefly take place in empty stadiums to the sound of recorded crowd noises, starting with the opening ceremony in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.

The ceremony will go ahead without its deliberate opening music after composer Keigo ‘Cornelius’ Oyamada quit following an outcry over past interviews where he described bullying disabled schoolmates.

Promoted

Major sponsor Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, also scrapped plans to run an Olympic-linked brand crusade in Japan, as a top official said the Games lacked “understanding” from the public.

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito will attend the opening ceremony, but an official from the Imperial Household Agency said it was once not known whether he’s going to speak at the event.

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