The International Olympic Committee continues to exude confidence that the Tokyo Olympics can and will be held next summer, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
And IOC president Thomas Bach indicated Wednesday that there's a growing hope there will even be fans in attendance for the Games.
In a media teleconference after the IOC's executive board meeting, Bach said recent sports event in Japan have provided evidence that competitions can be held safely there with fans. He cited, among other examples, a gymnastics meet that was held in Tokyo over the weekend with athletes from four countries and 2,094 fans in attendance.
"Having seen now the different tests in Japan, I think we can become more and more confident that we will have a reasonable number of spectators then also in the Olympic venues," Bach said. "How many and under which conditions, again, depends very much on the future developments."
Spectators cheer for Wataru Tanigawa of Japan as he competes in the rings during an international gymnastics meet in Tokyo on Nov. 8, 2020. (Photo: Hiro Komae, AP)
Bach has spoken repeatedly in recent months about a "toolbox" of COVID-19 countermeasures that the IOC is developing in conjunction with local organizers, to ensure the safety of participants, coaches, media members — and, possibly, fans.
He said Wednesday that these countermeasures cover everything from possible travel restrictions and quarantine protocols to rapid testing and vaccines, but he declined to go into detail on specific plans or possibilities.
"I can't and will not go into the details, because then we will still (be sitting) here in an hour," he said.
Bach again declined to say whether there is a deadline by which the IOC will decide whether to allow international spectators at the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed in March and will begin on July 23, 2021. There has been speculation that only Japanese residents may be permitted to attend, if spectators are allowed at all.
"Everything depends on everything," Bach said. "With the international spectators, it's the same for the athletes and officials and everybody else. We have to see what the countermeasures we need to apply to ensure the safe environment."
Bach will visit Tokyo next week for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, traveling on a charter jet with a small delegation.
The trip comes at a important juncture, as the IOC, local organizers and the Japanese government work to finalize COVID-19 countermeasures for next summer's Games. Bach hopes it will also have a symbolic effect and build confidence among the Japanese people, some of whom have been skeptical that the Games can or will ultimately be held.
When asked if a contingency plan for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics will be discussed during his visit, Bach said flatly: "No."
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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