(ATR) The number of topics addressed at an IOC press conference to mark 100 days until the Tokyo Olympics highlights the work still remaining to make the Games a reality.
Countermeasures, quarantines, athletes experience, spectators, playbooks, continuing preparations and operations, emerging feel good stories and the concerning opposition from the Japanese public were addressed byTokyo 2020 coordination commission chair John Coates and IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi.
They assured media that everything is aligning for a successful, albeit vastly different, Olympic Games. Japanese organizers are managing a rise in COVID cases in Japan and facing a recent public opinion poll with 72 percent of citizens against the Games taking place.
"Of course we’re concerned, of course safety remains our priority, but we believe we’ll be prepared for the worst situations," Coates said, addressing media virtually from Tokyo.
"I’m comforted when the Japanese government takes very serious measures at this point in time. The more serious measures they take now, the better able we’ll be able to conduct the Games later."
Coates addressed challenges and modifications to the Torch Relay, where two days in Kyoto were moved from public roads to a controlled environment inside a convention center due to rising cases in the prefecture.
"As you know, it’s required some flexibility to do with the Torch Relay," he said.
"We’ve also had some test events and we’ll continue to have test events during this situation.
"We’ve been preparing with countermeasures for the worst possible scenarios."
Coates was asked what is being done to instill confidence and convince the doubting Japanese public that the Games will be delivered safely.
"We have to publicize the countermeasures that are progressively being taken to ensure the safety of the Japanese public," Coates said. "They have to understand the emphasis that we’ve placed on this, as well as the safety of the athletes."
Coates, who is also the Australian NOC president, noted that public opinion for the Sydney 2000 Games was initially also negative, but turned positive within the 100-days-to-go mark.
Coates and Dubi both emphasized how Hideki Matsuyama, who just won the Masters golf major, and swimmer Rikako Ikee, a cancer survivor who has qualified for the Games, will inspire their fellow Japanese.
"As those stories start to get out to the public, and there will be others, I’m very confident the public opinion will turn," Coates said.
Dubi noted that version two of the Tokyo 2020 playbooks, further outlining procedures and protocols for athletes, stakeholders and media, are scheduled to be released on April 28.
"These operations will be complicated, no doubt about this, but at the same time these are the best prepared Games ever," Dubi said.
"What we have to do over the next 100 days is to focus on precision and being a precise as possible on both fronts: normal Games operation to ensure the bases are covered, and COVID operations."
Dubi advised that a date has not yet been set for a determination on the amount of spectators permitted to attend events. Some Japanese officials have suggested that a 50 percent capacity figure is realistic.
"The intention was always to give an indication by end of April, but we have until later since we know now that it's Japanese spectators only, so we have a little bit of the luxury of time," Dubi said.
"We will respect the decision of the Japanese authorities.
"We might have a first indication toward the end of April, but the situation may evolve as is the evolution of the epidemic," he said.
Dubi also noted that there is no further news on the participation of the North Korean delegation as the IOC has not received official notification, despite reports that the country’s athletes will not compete at the Games.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli
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