The 32nd Olympic Games in Tokyo need to be rescheduled to 2020, but not later than the summer of 2021, in view of the current epidemic situation, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo organizing committee said in a joint statement Thursday. In an interview with the international news agency, IOC President Bach introduced the contents of the talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and explained in detail why the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed.
Here is the interview record:
Bachs opening remarks:
After the conference call with Prime Minister Abe, I can say that the IOC and our Japanese partners and friends are not only aware of the seriousness of the global pandemic, but also, more importantly, the threat to peoples lives. In fact, we are very concerned about the latest developments and shocking data in recent days. As far as Africa is concerned, the data we can see shows that we are at the beginning of a virus outbreak. We have also seen alarming data in South America and Oceania, as well as in the rest of the world. This awareness prompted the IOC Executive Board to meet on Sunday. And after last Sunday night and this Monday, we noticed more shocking data, more international travel restrictions.
Later on Monday, the World Health Organization warned the world that the spread of the virus was accelerating due to the development and spread of the pandemic. So we decided to hold a conference call between Prime Minister Abe and me today. During the talks, in view of the current situation, we reached a consensus on the following aspects: the 32nd Tokyo Olympic Games need to be rescheduled to 2020, but not later than the summer of 2021, in order to protect the health of athletes, Olympic participants and the international community; we also agreed to keep the Olympic flame in Japan, which is a symbol of our commitment and a symbol of hope. Because of these symbols, we will also keep the name of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games unchanged.
We both hope that next years Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be a celebration after mankind overcome the unprecedented crisis of the new coronavirus. In this way, without knowing how long the dark tunnel will go, the Olympic flame can really become a light at the end of the tunnel.
Let me add that after the conference call with Prime Minister Abe, we held the IOC Executive Committee meeting, and the executive committee members approved the agreement reached between Prime Minister Abe and me. IPC President Andrew Parsons was also invited to attend and supported the agreement on behalf of the IPC.
Q: with regard to the date of the Tokyo Olympic Games, do you predict that it will be held next summer, or roughly in the original period of 2020 Olympic Games (July 24 to August 9)? Have you addressed the cost increase associated with this decision?
A: the Prime Minister of Japan and I did not discuss the issue of time. This will be the responsibility of the Coordination Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee. This huge and very difficult puzzle game has many pieces. The Olympic Games may be the most complex event on the planet. I had a phone conversation with Prime Minister Abe, and it was impossible to arrange everything. We need the Coordination Committee to work closely with all parties, including the IFS, which is really a huge challenge.
We also did not discuss financial issues, because the Olympic Games were postponed to protect human life, and we could not give priority to economic aspects. Prime Minister Abe has announced that the Japanese government fully supports this program and is committed to the eventual hosting of a successful Olympic Games. And I also announced that the IOC will go all out towards a positive outcome.
Q: you mentioned that the data and recommendations provided by who have changed a lot over the weekend, but you also pointed out that your ideas are changing. Is it because the athletes call to postpone the Olympic Games has changed your mind, or what causes you to change your mind and consider to postpone the Olympic Games?
A: I think you have seen in my open letter to the athletes that I feel the same with them and we have to deal with the uncertainty of the situation. This is a situation we have never met and do not want to encounter. In many parts of the world, the situation is extremely difficult for athletes. Therefore, we must always respond to the changes in the situation at the right time, and we need to make decisions as soon as possible.
If you look at the overall development, you can see a significant change.
At first, the question was whether Japan could provide a safe environment to welcome athletes from all over the world. At that time, seeing the various measures taken by Japan, we were very confident in the progress of Japan; seeing the data (related to the epidemic), we were also confident in providing a safe environment after four and a half months.
But after that, the epidemic spread all over the world, especially in recent days, the development of the epidemic is very worrying. Africa is clearly at the beginning of the spread of the virus, and who said a few hours ago that Africa needs to plan for the worst. In the rest of the world, we see an increase.
Q: do you think its the biggest crisis for the Olympic movement after World War I and World War II forced the cancellation of the Olympic Games?
A: its always dangerous to compare with each other, because there are many ways to interpret it. Considering the suffering of the war for many years, I dont think its appropriate to compare the postponement of the Olympic Games with the cancellation of the Olympic Games because of the war. We can say that this is an unprecedented crisis for mankind. Weve never seen the virus spread so fast around the world, so its an unprecedented challenge for the Olympics. As far as I know, thats why the Olympic Games have to be postponed for the first time in the history of the Olympics.
Q: the IFS depend on the Olympic funds to survive. Many of them have problems. In the next few months, without Olympic funds, can they survive? Do you plan to help them?
A: as you know, we didnt discuss this topic with Prime Minister Abe today. The top priority is to host the Tokyo Olympic Games, the highest purpose is to protect the health of athletes and all relevant personnel, and curb the spread of the virus. All other interests should come next. This is related to human survival and health.
Q: no one knows if the epidemic can be controlled next summer. If it doesnt get better by then, will you consider to postpone or cancel the Tokyo Olympic Games again? In addition, do you plan to visit Hiroshima in May?
A: the concern and commitment of the IOC is to host the Olympic Games in a healthy way for all involved. This commitment will not change, and this purpose will guide us in making all decisions.
In my conference call with Prime Minister Abe, I mentioned my visit to Japan in May. I will visit Japan on the original date. I am very glad to be able to show our full commitment to the success of the Tokyo Olympic Games through my visit. At the same time, I would like to thank the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, all levels of government departments and all Japanese people for their great work in preparing for the Olympic Games and for their enthusiasm and support for the Olympic Games. And to assure them that we will help them to succeed wholeheartedly. As Prime Minister Abe and I said before, the Tokyo Olympic Games will be a grand celebration after human beings overcome this unprecedented coronavirus crisis.
Q: the world championships of track and field and swimming will also be held next year. If the Olympic Games are also held in the summer of 2021, will they pose challenges to the organization of these two events?
A: thats why we decided last Sunday to solve these problems in at least four weeks. These two events are only part of the affected events. The Olympic Games is the most complex activity in the world, involving 11000 athletes from 206 NOCs and International Olympic refugee delegations; the establishment of Organizing Committee; fans, sponsors, broadcasters and cooperation with ifs and National Olympic Committees I just listed a small part of the puzzle.
It will take some time to solve these problems, and the Coordination Committee has begun to prepare. Since last Sunday, a number of stakeholders have been contacted. We believe that they can have a good plan to ensure the success of the Olympic Games as we all expect. I also believe that the ifs and their athletes are looking forward to participating in the Olympic Games.
Source: Xinhua news agency, editor in charge: Lu Ting, ns5242