International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is ‘very confident’ that the Tokyo Olympics will happen in 2021, according to a recent interview with TIME magazine.
Asked to give a “percentage possibility” that the rescheduled Olympics do take place next year despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Bach stopped short of giving 100% certainty, but said he saw no reason the Games wouldn’t go on.
“This is an unfair question because what is 100% in our world?” Bach said in the interview. “But we are very, very confident and at this moment we have no reason to believe that the Games could not take place.”
Bach visited Tokyo in November to inspect facilities. Originally schedule for the summer of 2020, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed by almost exactly one year as the world grappled with COVID-19 numbers. TIME reports that Japan has spent up to $26 billion on the Olympics according to some estimates that include about $1 billion in costs associated with the one-year delay.
Bach noted that the current Olympic village is already well-adapted to coronavirus protocols, with space for social distancing and high ceilings to allow for good air circulation indoors. He says an interim report has detailed some more pandemic protocols, including mask rules and a testing center within the athlete village.
A few more notes from Bach’s interview:
- TIME asked about athlete protests in a year marked by racial and social justice movements. Bach did not suggest that the IOC would be revising Article 50 (which prohibits protests during the Olympics), but did say athletes should be allowed to express themselves “in press conferences, in social media, in team meetings, in all the different events in the mixed zone.” Bach said that “athletes from a number of National Olympic Committees have already made it very clear that they want the field of play and the Olympic ceremonies protected from any kind of political demonstration.”
- Bach pushed back on a suggestion that the Tokyo Summer Olympics should be pushed back to 2022 and combined with the 2022 Winter Olympics, noting that a two-year delay would affect the preparation of athletes too much, and would raise the already-high costs of maintaining infrastructure in the host city.
- Asked about the United States and its current struggles with COVID-19 cases, Bach said he did not forsee any situation in which U.S. athletes and coaches would be asked to stay away from the Olympics for health and safety reasons. “The situation in the U.S. right now [might not be the] situation in eight months from now,” Bach said.