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The International Olympics Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, said that with Tokyo 2020 “we are committing an act of faith in the future” and just “like the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 marked a new era for a peaceful and dynamic Japan, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will give humanity faith in the future.”
Addressing the 138th IOC session in Japan, Mr Bach quoted the founder of the Olympics Committee, Pierre de Coubertin and said that “The Olympic Games are a pilgrimage to the past and an act of faith in the future.”
The session was opened by the Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide who said that “In these Games, 4.9 billion people in the world will be riveted to their TV screens. The world is faced with great difficulty – now is the time that we have to unite and, with the efforts and wisdom of humankind, deliver the Games. We can do that.”
Mr Suga had been heavily criticised domestically for his coronavirus policy but during the session, he said “after a long tunnel an exit is now in our sight.”
Last year, the Tokyo Games were postponed due to the pandemic and the devastating toll the coronavirus took globally. The 67-year-old IOC chief said: “We had doubts every day.” He added: “In order to arrive at this day today, we had to give confidence. We had to show a way out of this crisis. We had to provide stability. We had to build trust. We had to give hope.”
The IOC members also held a minute of silence at the start of the meeting to honour the victims of the pandemic.
Tokyo has been put in a state of coronavirus emergency for the entire duration of the Games which are scheduled from 23 July till 8 August. Because of the pandemic, no spectators shall be allowed to attend.
Japan has meanwhile spent $15.4 billion on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) however reported that the “government audits put the bill much higher.” It added: “Private companies have also invested a considerable sum” estimated to be an additional $3 billion.
On 21 May 21, the committee’s vice president confirmed that the Tokyo 2020 games shall proceed even though the Japanese public was displeased with the decision.
According to a poll by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, 83 per cent of Japanese were against the government’s plan to go ahead with the games this summer. Even Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto had complained that “Japan’s hand was being forced by decision-makers outside the country.”
Meanwhile, Mr Bach said that the “best athletes of the world are looking forward with anticipation to make their Olympic dream finally come true.”
In May, Timothy Mackey, an associate adjunct professor in the global health program at the University of California San Diego was quoted in Vox, saying: “I don’t know if the international prestige of holding the Olympics is worth it for a potential domestic public health event.” Talking about Japan’s decision to go ahead with the Games then, he said: “So why to risk it now?”
Mr Bach also praised the medical workers and volunteers for making the Tokyo Games possible. He added: “When Japan set out 10 years ago to bring the Olympic spirit back to Tokyo... none of us could have ever imagined the unprecedented challenges we would face — the Great East Japan earthquake, the coronavirus pandemic, the first-ever postponement of the Olympics.”
Mr Bach said: “We could only overcome all these challenges for the Olympic Games because throughout the past eight years we were enjoying a trustful partnership (with Japan). We could always rely on you.”