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IOC chief declares 'there is no plan B' and that Tokyo Olympics will go ahead

Sean Ingle
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

The International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, has said the Olympic Games will go ahead in July despite a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo because of increasing Covid-19 cases.

Public opinion in Japan has also turned sharply against the Olympics but Bach struck an upbeat note on Thursday. “We have, at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on 23 July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo,” he said. “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”

Related: Olympic athletes and officials ponder vaccine dilemma as Tokyo Games loom | Kieran Pender

He did hint at the possibility of reducing the number of spectators, saying the IOC has to be flexible and may need to make sacrifices to protect the lives of the people involved. “The priority is the safety. When it comes to safety, then there can be no taboo,” Bach told Kyodo News in Japan.

Bach’s optimism was criticised by the leading sports marketer Robert Maes, whose experience after working with 30 national Olympic committees and five global sponsors makes him deeply sceptical the Games will take place.

“I represent an important number of NOCs, and arrange training camps for athletes and teams, and I believe it is madness to organise Olympics here,” Maes said. “I call myself a good organiser of sports events and I’ve done Formula One events, track and field, and football games, but I cannot see how the Olympics can be held in the current climate.

“In Japan, we have an explosive rise of the virus cases and the seriousness of them, and because of the lack of tests the true numbers are surely underreported. A vast majority of the public is saying they don’t want the Olympics. Test events need to be cancelled. Many of the people I speak to are increasingly sceptical. They won’t say that publicly but it’s true.

“There is also total silence here from all the sponsors. No activation, no servicing, because if they come out to be visible in support they might get a huge backlash if it all goes wrong in July.

“I am known in the business as having a big mouth but there comes a time where reality should set in. Basically the IOC and [the Tokyo organisers] are now doing a Donald Trump and ignoring reality.”

Bach has previously acknowledged the IOC’s finances are under pressure because of the one-year postponement – with the organisation earning 73% of its revenue from selling broadcast rights. In Tokyo this could amount to $2bn-$3bn (£1.46bn-£2.2bn) in lost income if the Games were cancelled.