International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has reiterated a commitment to staging this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games as planned in Tokyo, although it remains to be seen how many fans would be able to attend.
The rescheduled Olympics are due to take place from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics to follow from August 24 to September 5. Japanese officials were last week forced to deny a report that the government was seeking to cancel the Games amid ongoing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bach has insisted that the events will be delivered this summer.
The IOC held an Executive Board meeting yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss preparations for the Games. Speaking with the media after the meeting, Bach said the IOC was “fully concentrated on and committed to the successful and safe delivery” of the Games.
The IOC has held consultation calls with international federations and National Olympic Committees in recent days and Bach stated that all bodies are fully committed to the Games going ahead but conceded that there is “no blueprint” for organising a postponed Games.
“Nobody at this moment can predict the health situation in 206 National Olympic Committees for the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, from late July until September of this year – not even the most prominent scientists in this area,” Bach said.
“This leads, you may say naturally, you can also say unfortunately, to much speculation. But all this speculation is hurting the athletes in their preparations, who have already overcome the challenges in their daily training and competition with all the restrictions they are facing, either in their country or when it comes to travelling.
“So there is speculation about cancellation; I heard about a plan B, about everything. Some even make the proposal to postpone the Olympic Games in Tokyo to the year 2032. I want to say good luck, if you would have to discuss this with an athlete who is preparing for the Olympic Games in 2021. There are some proposals to move it to another city. Everybody who knows about the complexity of Olympic Games knows this is not possible. They’re in such a short period of time.
“For all these reasons, we are not losing our time and energy on speculation. We are fully concentrating on the Opening Ceremony on 23 July this year. We are not speculating on whether the Games are taking place. We are working on how the Games will take place.”
Bach went on to request patience from NOCs, international federations, the Japanese people and the organising committee in the coming months, stating that it is too early to tell which of the “many COVID countermeasures” will be appropriate by the time the Games come around.
Bach added that ‘playbooks’ will be released to explain the measures for different stakeholder groups to protect themselves and others during the Games. The first version of the playbooks will be presented to NOCs and the Chefs de Mission at the beginning of February.
When asked about how full venues would be for the Games, Bach said: “This I cannot tell you. Our priority is to ensure safe Olympic Games and we will do whatever is needed to organise safe Olympic Games.
“Everybody would love to have full capacity stadiums and roaring crowds but if this is not possible we will respect our principle and this is the safe organisation. This is the first priority.”
Meanwhile, the IOC yesterday signalled plans to align with the Paris Agreement on climate change by setting a target to reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.
The IOC will also offset more than 100% of its remaining carbon emissions, mainly through the Olympic Forest project, which is part of the Great Green Wall, a UN-backed initiative to combat desertification in Africa’s Sahel region. According to the IOC, these offsets will make it climate-positive by 2024.
The IOC is already climate-neutral after offsetting its 2017-2020 emissions through its carbon partnership with Worldwide Olympic Partner, Dow.
The latest announcement follows an earlier commitment from the IOC to make the Olympics climate-positive. From 2030 onwards, each Olympic Games organising committee will be required to minimise and compensate carbon emissions and implement zero-carbon solutions.
All upcoming Olympics, including Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, have also committed to carbon neutrality. Tokyo 2020 will offset all its direct and indirect emissions, while all competition venues at the Beijing 2022 winter Games will aim to use 100% renewable energy.
The Paris 2024 carbon footprint is also expected to be around 1.5 million tonnes of CO2e, with 95% of its venues either pre-existing or temporary. New permanent constructions in Paris will be low carbon.
Los Angeles 2028 has also adopted a radical reuse approach and has committed to incorporating sustainability measures throughout its plans as it looks to set a new standard for large-scale events.