Olympic Athletics: Bach says phased return of sport a cause for “confidence” regarding Tokyo Olympic

The return of some sporting events amid the coronavirus pandemic should lead to confidence in our preparations for Tokyo Olympic, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has said. In an open letter to the Olympic Movement, following on from one written in April, Bach gave an update on plans going forward and stated he was thankful that sport was back in some form, paying tribute to those who made it possible.

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“The very optimistic greeting of these events proves that not only athletes and sports organizations but also the public at large have been desire for the return of sport as an essential part of our lives,” Bach supposed.

We also see that sport can be organized safely, even under the ongoing restrictions. This should give all of us confidence in our preparations for future events, including the Tokyo Olympic Games. Despite his optimism, Bach stressed the need to continue to act responsibly when planning and scheduling sports events.

Many due to take place in 2020 have been postponed or canceled due to ongoing travel restrictions, limits on large gatherings, and concern for the safety of athletes and personnel. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the most high-profile example – postponed from 2020 to 2021 in March.

“In our preparation and scheduling, we all have great accountability, not only for our own stakeholders but for the entire game community,” added Bach.

From knowledge, we know that every mishap that touches one of us affects all of us and has the possible to undo the great progress we have made together in the past few months. In this setting, we are monitoring the potential of innovative testing methods for the safe organization of events. In addition to the already existing test methods, there are several so-called rapid tests already on the market or under development. 

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When used in mixture with other virus countermeasures, such fast tests give us a significant additional tool to ensure a safe setting for everyone complicated. Bach also mentioned hopeful signals coming from scientists which suggest a vaccine for COVID-19 could be advanced as early as the end of the year.

On the other hand, we have to realize that even testing methods and vaccines are not the ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all our problems.  We just do not yet know the full influence of any potential inoculation, but altogether, there are good reasons for cautious hopefulness. The IOC will continue to study these developments closely. 

We are also evaluating what consequences they would have for the organization of sports events, ranging from the need to change certain rules of our respective organizations to medical, economic, social, and logistical aspects. To this end, we continue to collaborate closely with the World Health Organization, public authorities, medical and technical experts, as well as medicinal companies. 

We are also drawing from the experience of those sports organizations that have recently organized successful events. We of course will share any visions with all those worried among you, so that all of us in the Olympic Movement can advantage.

Coronavirus cases have declined in Japan over the last month, but given the global nature of the Olympics, the health situation abroad may be as important in determining whether or not the Games can go ahead. Much of Europe is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and the prevalence of the virus rates remain high in much of the Americas, as well as India.

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A coronavirus countermeasures taskforce, formed of officials from the Japanese Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, is assessing possible scenarios and measures that could allow the Olympics to run as predictable from July 23 to August 8, 2021.

The Paralympics is then arranged to follow from August 24 to September 5. A system for allowing athletes to be exempt from travel restrictions is expected to be approved this week, while Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto recently said Tokyo 2020 should be held next year “at any cost”.

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