• AFP-JIJI, Kyodo


Olympics chief Thomas Bach will arrive in Japan on July 8, Tokyo 2020 organizers said Wednesday as they make final preparations for the pandemic-postponed games.

Bach had initially been expected to visit Tokyo in May, but that trip was canceled over virus restrictions.

Tokyo 2020 said Bach would isolate for three days on arrival, adding that the International Olympic Committee head has been vaccinated.

He hopes to visit Hiroshima on July 16 to coincide with the start of an Olympic truce, organizers added.

The truce — adopted by the United Nations — aims to ensure a halt to all hostilities, allowing the safe passage and participation of athletes and spectators for the games.

IOC Vice President John Coates, who arrived in the country about two weeks ago, is planning to visit Nagasaki, the other Japanese city devastated by an atomic bomb in 1945, on the same day, according to the committee.

Not everyone in the two cities, however, welcomes their travel plans. Kunihiko Sakuma, head of a Hiroshima-based group supporting A-bomb victims, said, "Holding the Olympics under the current situation, in which many lives are being lost (due to the virus), runs counter to the spirit of the games, which is supposed to be a 'festival of peace.'"

The IOC will hold a board meeting in Tokyo from July 17 and a general meeting from July 20, with a vote expected on Brisbane as the 2032 Olympic host.

Just a few weeks remain until the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony on July 23, with several Olympic teams already in the country.

The games will take place under strict rules, with overseas fans banned and local spectators limited.

Polls have found most Japanese would rather see the games postponed again or canceled than held this year, though opposition has softened in recent weeks.

Japan has experienced a relatively small coronavirus outbreak and has now exceeded a million doses a day in its vaccination program.

But infections are rising in the capital and measures limiting alcohol sales and opening hours are expected to be extended, possibly into the period of the games.

On Wednesday, Tokyo logged 714 new cases of COVID-19, topping the 700 mark for the first time since May 26 and adding to concerns the Olympics could trigger a spike in infections.

Tokyo's seven-day rolling average of infections per day came to 508.4 on Wednesday, exceeding the 500-case threshold and entering Stage 4, the worst level on the government's four-point scale.

The resurgence has fanned concern that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga may declare another state of emergency in Tokyo. It could also reignite public debate on whether the event should take place with or without spectators.

"We will closely monitor the situation and take necessary measures in a timely manner," Suga has said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.