IOC President Thomas Bach followed up on his visit to Hiroshima by hosting a press conference after Saturday’s IOC Executive Board meeting.
Given the protocols in place to battle Covid-19 infections in Japan, it was not surprising that there was a small number of journalists attending the event in person. More than 600 others tuned in to the press conference online. Bach hailed his visit to Hiroshima as a message for peace and spoke of how humbled he was for being able to make the visit.
On a day when Bach was welcomed in Tokyo with a party of over 40 guests, 1,410 new COVID cases were registered in Tokyo alone, the highest number since January.
IOC President Bach said: “Welcome to all of you, after 15 months, this is the first time we meet in person again. This is a very special pleasure. Yesterday we marked the very day the UN Secretary General made reference to the Olympic Truce which has now come into effect. It was a very emotional visit to Hiroshima yesterday.
“We could feel there the support of the city of Hiroshima, expressed by the governor, the mayor and relevant chairs.
“Today in the IOC Executive Board meeting, the focus was of course on Tokyo 2020, from 1 July to 16 July around 15,000 athletes, officials and media and other accredited people have arrived here and you were all tested upon arrival.
“Only 15 people tested positive on arrival or during screening tests so this is a very low rate of only 0.1 percent. It goes without saying that all concerned people were isolated immediately and in this way they do not pose any risk.
“This shows that the necessary measures are not only in place but also that they are being enforced. We also had a discussion and presentation about how to mitigate the consequences of the decision of the Japanese authorities supported by the IOC and IPC of not having spectators in most venues.
“We want to support the athletes and we don’t want them to feel alone. This means even more so, these Games will be followed by billions of people, we want to see their support for the athletes.
“We have created a number of experiences and initiatives to bring fans together with athletes in venues. There will be live geo maps where you can see how strong the fanbase is in different regions. They can clap virtually; they can express their support and this will be measured and shown.”
Bach spoke of the IOC’s plans for creating an atmosphere in the venues in lieu of the missing fans in the stands.
“I hope maybe this can create a competition among athletes but also fans. We will have another tool, this will be six-second video selfies which fans can produce. These videos will be shown in the different venues but they will also be offered to the broadcasters so they can show the engagement.
“We will also have the opportunity for athletes to meet fans, friends and family online via video and to be able to communicate live.
“We will have a new immersive sound system where the athletes will be supported in their competition by the sound from previous Olympic Games but it will be related to their specific competition.
“They (athletes) will feel like they’re in an Olympic environment, we can show the vibes of the world to the athletes.
“This will be the most followed Games in Olympic history. These billions of people around the globe will admire the athletes, will support the athletes, with the means I referred to earlier, but also they will admire the Japanese people for what they have achieved under the circumstances prevailing in Japan right now.
“I ask and invite humbly the Japanese people to welcome and support the athletes from around the world. These athletes are sharing their experience of the pandemic with the Japanese people and like the Japanese people they have overcome so many obstacles to be here finally.
“The Japanese people can feel with them and I’m very confident that the Japanese people will, once the Games have started, not only welcome them but also support them.”
The press conference felt very much like Bach issuing a rallying call to the hosts to engage and support the Games.
The Opening Ceremony will take place on July 23 at the newly-renovated National Stadium and the Olympics will run until August 8.