Olympics

National Olympic Committees open meeting

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

The largest-ever General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees convened in Tokyo on Wednesday with preparations for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in the Japanese capital among the items to be discussed.

The two-day event at a Tokyo hotel opened with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering an address to the more than 1,400 representatives from all 206 NOCs, the International Olympic Committee, international sports federations and games organizing committees.

“We’re in this together as Team Japan, working to create a safe and secure games, one that will be pleasing and attractive for all,” Abe said.

“All of Japan will welcome international visitors with the ultimate omotenashi (hospitality spirit),” he said.

IOC President Thomas Bach added his opening remarks, praising the host city for its exceptional preparedness with less than two years until the games begin.

“Tokyo 2020 promises to be excellent Olympic Games from the organizational point of view, from the engagement point of view and from the atmosphere point of view,” Bach said.

“I do not remember — and I have some experience with Olympic Games — but I do not remember any host city which was so far in its preparations two years before the games than Tokyo. You can feel this power the Japanese people have embraced and how much they are looking forward to this.”

In Wednesday’s morning session, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah reiterated his decision to temporarily step down as ANOC president amid allegations of forgery. Last week, the Kuwaiti suspended himself from his 26-year IOC membership.

Consequently, the scheduled executive elections are expected to be postponed pending Sheikh Ahmad’s legal hearings in Switzerland. Robin Mitchell of Fiji has assumed temporary leadership of the umbrella organization.

The assembly will also see presentations from the two remaining bids for the 2026 Winter Games — Stockholm and Italian joint bidders Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo — following withdrawals from five other bids including Sapporo.

On Thursday, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee will give a report on the status of the host city’s preparations amid an intense period of Olympic activity in the capital.

The ANOC event will be followed by an IOC executive board meeting on Friday and Saturday, before the IOC Coordination Commission reviews Tokyo 2020’s progress from Monday through Wednesday.

Last Saturday, Bach accompanied Abe on a visit to Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and will host baseball and softball during the 2020 Games.

Later in the week, top IOC officials will weigh the future of boxing’s status as an Olympic event at a Friday meeting in Tokyo expected to be dominated by concerns over the sport’s governance.

Bach said he was “extremely worried about the governance of AIBA,” the International Boxing Association. Earlier this year, he said that a report handed to the IOC in April “still lacks execution and substance in some areas” and that his organization “retains the right to exclude boxing from Tokyo 2020.”

This month, AIBA submitted an updated report it hopes will address the concerns and IOC officials are expected to decide boxing’s fate, with some reports indicating the 2020 competition could be run under the auspices of a different body.

The IOC’s patience with boxing has declined since a judging scandal at the 2016 Rio Games saw all 36 officials and referees suspended amid allegations of bout-fixing.

There are also concerns over AIBA’s finances, anti-doping measures, and its controversial newly-elected president Gafur Rakhimov, who has been linked to organized crime by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“The truth is that I, of course, have never been involved in transnational criminal organizations,” Rakhimov told AFP, calling his presence on a U.S. Treasury list a “mistake.”

The Uzbek businessman said last week that boxing has cleaned up its act and now “exceeded the governance requirement for change.”

AIBA’s financial situation is now “under control,” amateur boxing is “100 percent compliant with anti-doping rules” and “boxing will always stay in the Olympics,” added the 67-year-old.

Regardless of the IOC’s final decision, Bach has stressed boxers will not suffer from the problems faced by its governing body.

“We don’t want athletes to be punished by the bad behavior of some officials,” Bach has said in the past.

“Irrespective of the decision taken . . . we will make the necessary efforts to ensure that athletes have the possibility to pursue their Olympic journey.”