Olympic chief says no 'deadline' for how Tokyo Games will be organised

Lausanne (AFP) –


It is too early to set a deadline on how next year's postponed Tokyo Olympics will be organised, Olympic chief Thomas Bach said Wednesday, adding developments for rapid Covid-19 testing and vaccines would greatly facilitate the Games going ahead.

"We don't really know where the environment we will be in next year, it's too early to set a deadline," Bach said after an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which he heads up.

"We don't know how the world looks like tomorrow, how could you expect us to know how the world look like in 316 days?"

The 2020 Games were postponed in a historic decision earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they are now set to open on July 23, 2021.

"In the next coming weeks you will see important and intensive discussions taking place with regard to the different scenarios regarding the Covid-19 counter-measures," Bach said.

"Overall we will of course continue to follow the principle that has driven all our decisions so far with regard to Tokyo and that means to organise the Olympic Games in a safe environment for all people involved next summer."

The IOC's taskforce, Bach said, was preparing for a multitude of different scenarios.

"That's not easy, but of course social distancing is under consideration," he said.

"We're also following very closely what's happening with the development of rapid testing and developments of vaccination and vaccines because this could also have an affect and could then facilitate the preparations.

"It's just too early to give a concrete answer to what will be the final scenario and the final approach."

- 'Cautiously optimistic' -

Bach acknowledged the taskforce was closely following big sporting events around the world to examine how they were organised.

Contact had been made "to exchange information and learn and this will continue".

"I'm only sure about one thing in this uncertain world and uncertain development... the environment when it comes to Tokyo will be different than from the environment today. We only do not know in which way.

"Therefore, you cannot automatically transfer the experience we are gaining with them to the organisation of the Games in one year from now."

But Bach insisted he thought "we can be cautiously optimistic".

"According to our information and the contact we have with experts, the World Health Organization, but also with pharmaceutical companies and what we are seeing on the market, we will see a great progress with regards to rapid testing for instance which will greatly influence the planning and scenario.

"We are also informed about encouraging news about the development of vaccines and all these will play a role.

"They will not be the 'silver bullet' but they can greatly facilitate the organisation of the Games and hopefully already events in the lead up to the Games."

Bach also played down comments to AFP by John Coates, the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, that the Games would take place "with or without Covid".

"Mr Coates, like the entire IOC, is fully committed to the principle we always apply: Olympic Games in a safe environment for all participants," Bach said.