In his opening speech to the 137th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – the second remote IOC Session in Olympic history – IOC President Thomas Bach today emphasised the optimism created by the successful organisation of over 270 major sports events with measures in place to safeguard the health of all involved. He also spoke of the widespread support the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 have received from the United Nations and the G20 and G7 Leaders, and praised the commitment of the Japanese hosts to delivering successful Games this summer.
Welcoming the IOC membership, the IOC President stressed the determination of the IOC, the Olympic Movement and their Japanese partners to hold safe and secure Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for all participants.
During his opening speech, he voiced the many reasons for optimism, including the excellent work of the International Federations, which have organised over 270 major sporting events, World Championships or World Cups, since September 2020. Cumulatively, these events have involved over 30,000 athletes. All of them had rigorous health and safety protocols in place, including extensive testing regimes, which far exceeded 200,000 tests.
President Bach stated: “Not a single one of these events turned into a virus-spreader. So we have clear and obvious proof that very big international sports events with a large number of international participants can be organised while safeguarding the health of everyone.”
In addition, the relevance of the Olympic Games at this uncertain time has been confirmed by declarations of support from the United Nations, the G20 Leaders and most recently the G7 Leaders, who backed the hosting of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19.
In his address, the IOC President reflected on this: “Encouraged by this support, the IOC is working at full speed together with our Japanese partners and friends to make the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a safe manifestation of peace, solidarity and the resilience of humankind in overcoming the pandemic.”
He went on to say that Tokyo remains the best prepared Olympic city ever and that, at this moment, there is no doubt that the Opening Ceremony will take place on 23 July 2021.
For this, he expressed gratitude to the Government of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Organising Committee, the athletes, the International Federations, the National Olympic Committees, all the IOC’s TOP Partners and the Rights-Holding Broadcasters for their steadfast commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
On the current COVID-19 situation, President Bach said: “This fight against the virus, as we all know, is a tough one. But we are fighting this fight for and like Olympic athletes. This means with full determination, with the will to win, with hard work every day, and with all the physical and mental strength we have.”
On the exceptional nature of this Olympic year – preparing for two editions of the Olympic Games in parallel – President Bach highlighted the excellent state of preparations for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022:
“All the venues are completed. In fact, the test events for the mountain cluster just took place a few days ago. Despite the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we can say already now with great confidence that the Organising Committee is ready: ready to welcome the world’s best winter sport athletes for this global celebration of sport.”
The IOC President concluded his speech by saying that the world continues to evolve at an ever-increasing pace, which creates new challenges to turn into opportunities. He said:
“For this reason, we will discuss during this Session Olympic Agenda 2020+5, our vision for this new world. Our founder, Pierre de Coubertin, once said: ‘Humanity must find all the strength it can in the heritage of the past in order to build its future. Olympism is one of those strengths.’ Today, our mission compels us to come together; to stand united; to carry our values into this post-coronavirus world; and to contribute to shaping this new world.”