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May 22, 2020

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Bach insists 2021 is ‘last option’

Olympics chief Thomas Bach agreed yesterday that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the delayed Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.

Bach said he backed Japan’s stance that the Games will have to be cancelled if the coronavirus pandemic isn’t under control by next year.

In March, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed to July 23, 2021, over the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands around the world and halted international sport and travel.

“Quite frankly, I have some understanding for (Japan’s position) because you cannot forever employ 3,000, or 5,000, people in an organizing committee,” Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, told the BBC.

“You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide for all the major federations. You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty, you cannot have so much overlapping with a future Olympic Games.”

The IOC leader said it was a “mammoth task” to reorganize the Olympics, which have never been cancelled outside of the world wars.

However, Japanese officials have been clear that they have no intention of postponing the Games again beyond next year.

Bach warned that “nobody knows” how the situation will play out, but said the IOC will act on advice from the World Health Organization.

“We have established one principle, and this is to organize these Games in a safe environment for all the participants,” he said. “Nobody knows what the world will look like in one year and two months from today, so we have to rely on (the experts).”

Bach wouldn’t say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them without fans.

“This is not what we want,” he said. “Because the Olympic spirit is about also uniting the fans and this is what makes the Games so unique that they’re in an Olympic stadium, all the fans from all over the world are together.”

The IOC has already set aside US$800 million to help organizers and sports federations meet the extra costs of a postponed Olympics.

According to the latest budget, the Games were due to cost US$12.6 billion, shared between the organizing committee, the government of Japan and Tokyo city. But Bach said there should be “no taboo” in cutting costs for next year’s Games.

“They will definitely be different, and they have to be different,” he said. “If we all have learned something during this crisis, (it is) to look to the essentials and not so much on the nice-to-have things.

“So this concentration on the essentials should be reflected in the organization of these Games... there should be no taboo.”

Meanwhile, a drawing that uses the Tokyo Olympic logo and combines it with features of the COVID-19 virus was pulled yesterday from the website of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Action to remove the drawing came after the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee demanded the withdrawal and claimed copyright infringement.

FCCJ President Khaldon Azhari said the club’s lawyers agreed the drawing had likely infringed Japan’s tight copyright laws.

He said the move would not limit the club’s freedom of expression, nor its ability in the future to use parody or satire. He also expressed “sincere regret to anyone who may have been offended on all sides of this issue.”

“In the FCCJ’s 75-year history, it has always stood as a beacon for the freedom of press in Japan, and continues to stand for those values,” Azhari said in an online news conference. “And for the right of journalists to hold authorities to account. This is beyond any question.”

Tokyo Olympic CEO Toshiro Muto confirmed later in the day that Azhari is a member of the organizing committee’s media commission. He described the membership as “irrelevant” to this situation. He said the main issues were the copyright laws and “inconsideration” shown by using the image.

“This is not related to conflict of interest at all,” Muto insisted.

The look-alike emblem appeared on the cover of the club’s magazine published in April. It did not become an issue beyond a small circle in Japan until the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee raised it earlier this week.

Since then it has been covered online and elsewhere, with the logo appearing frequently in searches.


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