TOKYO, 16 November (BelTA - Xinhua) - International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said here on Monday that the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games will be held as planned next July despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that he is also confident there will be spectators inside the stadiums.
Bach told reporters at a joint press conference with Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori that considering many sports events have been held in Japan and the world, there are enough reasons to believe that the Olympic Games, which has been rescheduled from July 23 to August 8 next year, will take place in a "safe" environment.
"Sport is a great preventive measure, in particular in such kind of pandemic, (with) confinement, isolation and uncertainty," he said. "We have seen many sports events in the world successfully organized, which has given hope and certainty.
"Based on this success, we can be even more confident because in nine months from now, we know that we will have more countermeasures in our toolbox than we have now."
Bach, on his first visit to Japan since the games was postponed in March, pinned high hopes on "more sophisticated and rapid" testing methods, and more importantly, the vaccines.
"We can also be more confident that most likely we have vaccines available," he said. "We can put this into the toolbox."
He said that the IOC will ask all participants to be vaccinated and his organization will also pay the cost.
"We will undertake all these efforts that as many as participants as possible accept vaccines. That is very clear. We want to convince as many foreign participants as possible to accept vaccines. If the vaccine is available, the IOC will take this cost."
While he promised that the Games will not be held behind closed doors, Bach is not sure how many spectators can be accommodated during the games for safety reasons and looked forward to "a reasonable number."
"Everybody in the Olympic Games would like to have a full house and full-capacity stadiums. But the top priority is for IOC and the organizing committee has been and remains to offer a safe environment. We will have to see the situation and which conditions we can offer.
"We cannot tell you what numbers in nine months. We can be confident there will be a reasonable number."
Bach, who arrived here in a chartered flight Sunday afternoon for a four-day visit, met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his first open event and both sides agreed that the Games will be held next summer.
Suga, who took over as Japanese Prime Minister two months ago, assured Bach that Japan is "determined" to host the postponed Olympics as "proof that humanity has defeated the virus."
Bach also met former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the afternoon and awarded the Olympic Order for his job in the preparation for the games. He went on to hold talks with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
The IOC chief's long-awaited visit is a confidence booster for Olympic organizers, who are battling a third wave of COVID-19. Japan reported 1,434 new cases on Sunday, including 255 in Tokyo. 243 people with severe symptoms were being treated in intensive care.
Accompanied by IOC Coordination Commission Chair John Coates, Bach is scheduled to visit the athletes' village and the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.