TOKYO • Tokyo Olympics organisers will welcome Thomas Bach today with a spring in their step, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president is sure to ask demanding questions in private, even if his support remains unwavering in public.
The visit will be the German’s first to the Japanese capital since he and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in March decided to postpone the Games for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
His arrival comes after Tokyo over a week ago hosted a successful international gymnastics meet where a variety of Covid-19 counter-measures were tested, and with news of a potentially successful vaccine from Pfizer on the horizon.
In a video message broadcast during the four-nation gymnastics event, Bach said the event gave confidence that the Games can go ahead next year, even if it has to be held with restrictions.
Before the postponement decision, Bach praised Tokyo as the “most prepared” host city he had experienced and the 1976 Montreal Games fencing gold medallist in team foil is expected to convey a similarly positive message this time around.
However, despite what Bach may say in public during his two-day trip, he will also be pushing Tokyo 2020 organisers to formulate concrete plans for the rearranged Games and enact further cost-reduction measures.
The two key areas Bach will want to hash out with the organisers are whether spectators will be allowed in venues, and how best to safely accommodate over 11,000 athletes arriving in Tokyo from across the world.
“It (the trip) is important because we are now coming to a crucial stage of putting this toolbox together with Covid-19 counter-measures to get the feeling what will be needed next year,” he said last week.
During the visit, the German is expected to meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and will award his predecessor Abe the Olympic Order, the IOC’s highest accolade, for his support of the Games.
Bach will also meet Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, visit the newly built National Stadium, and hold a news conference alongside Tokyo 2020 organisers.
Athletes expected to arrive in Tokyo for the Olympics next year.