The 11th and final meeting (19-21 May) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Coordination Commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 concluded today, and it has become clearer than ever that these Games will be safe for everyone participating and the Japanese people.
The opening session of the meetings was attended by IOC President Thomas Bach, who took the opportunity to focus efforts on this crucial period for the Games. He said: “With just 65 days to go until the Opening Ceremony, we are now very delivery-focused. The athletes from all around the world are grateful to Japan for its diligent preparations, and are looking forward to safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games where they can finally shine.”
With Tokyo 2020 now fully in the operational delivery phase, the IOC President confirmed that as many as 75 per cent of the residents of the Olympic Village are already vaccinated or have secured vaccination; and that there is good reason to believe that this figure will be well over 80 per cent at the time of the Games.
This has also been made possible by the most recent IOC initiative with the Pfizer/BioNtech donation of vaccines to Games participants. Another boost was the announcement that Panam Sports has offered vaccinations to all qualified athletes and accredited officials from the region who have not yet been inoculated against COVID-19. Such positive news represents the true spirit of solidarity throughout the Olympic Movement.
Speaking after the conclusion of these meetings, John Coates, the Chair of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, said: “It has become clearer than ever that these Games will be safe for everyone participating and the Japanese people. With the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games just over two months away, we are now fully in operational delivery mode. After nearly eight years of hard work and planning, the finish line is within touching distance. It is testament to the hard work of the Tokyo 2020 organisers, including the Japanese Government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese people, that we are able to look towards the Opening Ceremony on 23 July with such confidence.” He continued: “We will continue to work hand in hand with our Japanese partners to do everything possible to deliver safe and secure Games for everyone. I know from my own athletes in Australia, how appreciative they are of the efforts of the Japanese people to give them the opportunity to live their dream despite the current situation.”
Following Coates’ remarks, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko HASHIMOTO said: “It has now been three months since my appointment as President, and just two months remain until the opening of the Games. Preparations for safe and secure Games are proceeding steadily, but I am aware that we must work all the harder to ensure that the people of Tokyo and Japan also feel that sense of safety and security.
“In response to any concerns, we are moving forward to tighten our planning in three fields. First, tight limitations on the number of participants entering Japan. Second, tight enforcement of the code of conduct and of health monitoring. And third, a tight review and reconsideration of the Games-time medical system.
“There are 63 days left until the Games. In that time, we will work unstintingly to implement these plans and deliver Olympic and Paralympic Games that are truly for everyone.”
In addition to advances made on vaccinations and understanding the current situation in Japan, it was announced during the Coordination Commission meeting that the IOC is already actively working with its Japanese partners in the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee on an IOC programme to bring medical personnel from abroad to support the safe and secure delivery of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Elements of the measures being implemented for the Tokyo 2020 Games were demonstrated at the recent test events held in Japan. For example, four international competitions – for volleyball, diving, marathon and athletics – saw more than 700 athletes and over 6,000 related staff from Japan and across the world participate. At all events, strict COVID-19 countermeasures were followed, ensuring their safe operation.
Some International Federations (IFs) have successfully held their qualification events in Japan in the last few weeks, such as the FISA Asia & Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue, the Sea Forest Waterway, and the World Triathlon Championship Series in Yokohama, both working closely with local federations and the government agencies.
All of these events received positive feedback from the IFs and athletes. This included Jennifer Abel, a Canadian diver and Olympian. During the FINA Diving World Cup 2021 held in Tokyo, she said: “We need to adapt, everyone needs to cope with these conditions. The main goal for everyone is to be and feel safe, and we are very safe here. We cannot ask for better conditions with this COVID situation.”
Fellow Olympian Jelle Geens, a Belgian triathlete who competed in the World Triathlon Championship Series, said: “Just before we left Yokohama, we were saying that it was quite insane how well everything was arranged and how perfectly it was organised. They [the Japanese organisers] had thought about every little detail, and yes it was more restricted than usual, but that is the way it needs to be right now, and there were no complaints. I think this can show other sports what is possible with the right protocols in place.”
The Coordination Commission was further encouraged by the many sporting events taking place successfully around the globe, noting that more than 54,000 athletes have competed in over 430 major sports events since September 2020, all held safely for participants and the local population.
Many of these contributed to Olympic qualification. At this stage, 72 per cent of athletes, or just over 8,000 athletes, have already qualified for this summer’s Games. This includes 11 sports/disciplines for which qualification has been completed. The remaining will come from world rankings (20 per cent) and the final qualifying events (8 per cent).
The experience gained by the IFs and NOCs from these events, held during the COVID-19 pandemic, also contributed to the latest edition of key stakeholder Playbooks. It supplements the latest scientific expertise used to develop these guidelines.
The recent publication of the second edition of the Playbooks was highlighted by the Coordination Commission as another important step towards Games-time operations, further reinforced by confidence shown by the World Health Organization in the risk-mitigation measures being planned for Games time.
With the final editions of the Playbooks due to be published in June, Tokyo 2020 explained that its teams are already training for the implementation of all these policies and procedures as they prepare to welcome Games participants to Japan within the next few weeks for the likes of technical set-up and NOC pre-Games training camps. At the same time, the Coordination Commission emphasised that all stakeholders had shown full commitment to following the rules outlined in the Playbooks very strictly throughout their time in Japan.
Updates were also provided on plans being developed by global and local sponsors. They continue to work closely with Tokyo 2020 to provide essential products and services to stage the Games – from technology to infrastructure and products that directly support the athletes. Similarly, broadcasters are busy increasing their Games readiness. Many have already launched global promotional campaigns aimed at promoting the athletes’ achievements and the Olympic values as they begin to build excitement ahead of the Games.
With the final Coordination Commission meeting now over, the full focus of all the organisers turns again to delivery and the prospect of hosting unforgettable Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.