International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach said Tuesday that Tokyo is the “best-ever prepared” Olympic host city despite difficult circumstances stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Japanese people can have confidence in all the efforts we are undertaking to make these games for them secure and safe, with all the intensive, most strict COVID countermeasures,” Bach added at a meeting with the games organizing committee held 10 days before the opening ceremony.
Bach arrived in Tokyo last Thursday for the Olympics that will open on July 23 following a one-year postponement.
“We are sitting in one boat and we are rowing together with full force in the same direction,” Bach said as he met with Seiko Hashimoto, head of the organizing committee, in his first in-person meeting since his arrival in Tokyo last Thursday. “Our common target is a safe and secure games for everybody.”
Still, fears remain among many people in Japan that the pandemic-postponed Olympics could turn into a superspreader event, even though Japanese organizers and the IOC recently decided to hold nearly 100% of the competitions without spectators.
Bach also appeared to stumble over his words in his brief remarks, referring to the “Chinese people” rather than “Japanese people.”
“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, quickly noticing his mistake.
The IOC chief’s comments at the briefing were interpreted from English to Japanese, but the slip was not included in the translations.
Domestic news outlets and social media, however, were quick to pounce on the slip-up, with some lambasting Bach. Beijing is due to host the Winter Olympics in February.
Bach, who was until recently quarantined at his hotel, is likely to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, according to officials with knowledge of the plan.
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