Olympics chief Thomas Bach tells the angry Japanese public cancelling the Games is NOT an option despite Covid forcing events behind closed doors… after referring to locals as ‘Chinese’ in an embarrassing error
- IOC president Thomas Bach was making his first public appearance in Japan
- The city of Tokyo will be in a state of emergency for the entire Olympic Games
- People have protested about the event going ahead outside Bach’s hotel
IOC president Thomas Bach made his first public appearance on Tuesday since arriving in Tokyo last week and insisted the Olympic Games cannot be called off, despite resistance in Japan to the event going ahead.
Last week, Tokyo went into a state of emergency and banned fans from attending nearly all events amid a rise in coronavirus cases. That state of emergency will be in place across the duration of the Games, which runs from July 23 until August 8 and people have protested against it going ahead outside of the hotel Bach is staying in.
Despite looking to appease concerns from the Japanese public, Bach embarrassingly slipped up on his words and called the Japanese people ‘Chinese people’.
Thomas Bach, the IOC president, made his first public appearance in Tokyo on Tuesday
‘Our common target is safe and secure games for everybody; for the athletes, for all the delegations, and most importantly also for the Chinese people – Japanese people,’ Bach said, catching his mistake quickly.
‘You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic Games. This is even more remarkable under the difficult circumstances we all have to face.’
Bach’s comments in the briefing were interpreted from English to Japanese, but the slip was not included in the interpretations.
Opening up on the decision to push ahead with games amid the ongoing pandemic, Bach told Kyodo News: ‘We, the IOC, will never abandon the athletes, and with the cancellation, we would have lost a whole generation of athletes. So therefore, a cancellation for us was not really an option.’
Bach also said that, with ‘a heavy heart’, he supported the decision to keep spectators away from events in Japan.
Polls in Japan have shown that up to 80 per cent of the public don’t want the games going ahead this summer, after they were postponed last year due to the pandemic.
Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, with about a third of its population aged 65 or over. The Associated Press said on Tuesday that, according to the office of the Japanese Prime Minister, 18.5 per cent of the Japanese population are fully vaccinated.
People have protested against the Olympics going ahead by the hotel where Bach is staying
There were 830 new Covid-19 cases in Tokyo on Tuesday, up from 593 a week ago and it is the 24th straight day that Covid cases had risen.
Bach is going to visit Hiroshima on Friday, a move that has been panned by some in Japan as a politically motivated gesture.
An online petition asking Bach to scrap the visit has over 30,000 signatures as of early Tuesday afternoon.
But the Hiroshima governer Hidehiko Yuzaki said in a statement to Kyodo: ‘I would like (Bach) to send a powerful message toward the realization of a peaceful world without nuclear weapons.’