Hashimoto: Athletes Should Not Be Targets for Criticism

(ATR) Tokyo 2020 president concerned that athletes are caught in the middle of the public discontent over the Olympics.

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(ATR) Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko expresses concern that athletes are caught in the middle of the public discontent in Japan over the Olympics moving forward.

Japanese athletes are facing criticism for continuing their preparations for the Olympics, with some on social media calling for them to withdraw from competing.

"These (criticisms) should not be targeted at athletes – I cannot condone and tolerate that," Hashimoto said, at a media briefing following Tokyo 2020’s participation in an IOC Executive Board meeting on Wednesday.

"The athletes have to be confident and feel comfortable about preparing for the Games and we feel we need to create a conducive environment," she said.

Toyota Motor Corp. operating and chief communications officer Jun Nagata said that company officials felt "conflicted" over the desire to see the Olympics succeed and public concerns over staging the event during the current health crisis.

"As sponsors, it breaks our heart to see public discontent aimed at athletes," Nagata told an earnings briefing on Wednesday.

"To be honest, we are conflicted every day over what the best course of action is," Nagata said.

Toyota has been a worldwide Olympic and Paralympic sponsor, and partner of the IOC since 2015. Hashimoto was asked how Tokyo 2020 can garner favorable support from top sponsors.

"When I became president, I went directly to the sponsors to greet them and I heard directly from them that the partner companies have a very favorable position regarding the postponed Games," Hashimoto said.

"Further support was expressed by them and I attach much significance to this so that the businesses can work together with us and they can do that with confidence.

"I would like to create a framework where I can talk to stakeholders and feel it’s very important to do that."

Hashimoto was also asked about the United States track and field team cancelling a pre-Olympic training camp out of concerns over athlete safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For those that have made such preparations, I feel they are very disappointed, I would imagine so," Hashimoto said.

"This time there were various reasons, from what I heard security and safety cannot be ensured and when entering the country the measures regarding border countermeasures take up too much time.

"In order to secure safety and security, there has to be a lot of self-restraint and a lot of administrative and managerial procedures.

"For the athletes, some of them may feel they want to do the training on their own before coming to the Games," she surmised.

The U.S. athletes were expected to train in Chiba, a neighboring prefecture of Tokyo. Local authorities announced the cancellation, raising additional concerns about Japan staging the Games.

Hashimoto cited the success and safe outcomes of four recently completed test events, in which more than 700 athletes and over 6,000 staff participated. According to Tokyo 2020, not a single positive case emerged during the competition periods and the lone positive test result was immediately confirmed upon the individual's arrival in Japan.

"The test events progressed smoothly and although there are challenges, we were able to do the events in a way that ensures us this is the right way," Hashimoto said.

"Of course there are a lot of challenges which remain which became clear from the test events.

"There are lots of improvements that need to be made and we hope that we can share information with the hosting local governments and the Tokyo TMG [Tokyo Metropolitan Government].

"As to what countermeasures can be taken, depending on the situation of the local government, we will take it case by case," she said.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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