Bach says phased return of sport a cause for "confidence" regarding Tokyo 2020

Bach says phased return of sport a cause for "confidence" regarding Tokyo 2020

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The return of some sporting events should lead to "confidence" regarding Tokyo 2020, says IOC President Thomas Bach ©Getty Images

The return of some sporting events amid the coronavirus pandemic should lead to "confidence in our preparations" for Tokyo 2020, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has said.

In an open letter to the Olympic Movement, following on from one written in April, Bach gave an update on plans going forward and stated he was thankful that sport was back in some form, paying tribute to those who made it possible.

"The very positive reception of these events clearly demonstrates that not only athletes and sports organisations but also the public at large have been longing for the return of sport as an integral part of our lives," Bach said.

"We also see that sport can be organised safely, even under the ongoing restrictions.

"This should give all of us confidence in our preparations for future events, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."

Despite his optimism, Bach stressed the need to continue to act responsibly when planning and scheduling sports event.

Many due to take place in 2020 have been postponed or cancelled due to ongoing travel restrictions, limits on large gatherings and concern for the safety of athletes and personnel.

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Diamond League events have been held under COVID-19 restrictions, with few or no spectators present ©Getty Images

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the most high-profile example - postponed from 2020 to 2021 in March.

"In our planning and scheduling, we all have a great responsibility, not only for our respective stakeholders, but for the entire sports community," added Bach.

"From experience, we know that every mishap that affects one of us affects all of us – and has the potential to undo the great progress we have made together in the past few months.

"In this context, we are monitoring the potential of innovative testing methods for the safe organisation of events.

"In addition to the already existing test methods, there are a number of so-called rapid tests already on the market or under development.

"When used in combination with other virus countermeasures, such rapid tests give us an important additional tool to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved."

Bach also mentioned "encouraging signals" coming from scientists which suggest a vaccine for COVID-19 could be developed as early as the end of the year.

Effectively rolling out a vaccine across the world would likely take months if not years, however.

"On the one hand, these recent weeks have shown that we can organise big sports events in a safe way even without a vaccine," Bach wrote.

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Coronavirus forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

"On the other hand, we have to realise that even testing methods and vaccines are not the 'silver bullet' that will solve all our problems.

"We just do not yet know the full impact of any potential vaccine, but altogether, there are good reasons for cautious optimism.

"The IOC will continue to study these developments closely.

"We are also evaluating what consequences they would have for the organisation of sports events, ranging from the need to change certain rules of our respective organisations to medical, economic, social and logistical aspects.

"To this end, we continue to cooperate closely with the World Health Organization, public authorities, medical and scientific experts, as well as pharmaceutical companies.

"We are also drawing from the experience of those sports organisations that have recently organised successful events.

"We of course will share any insights with all those concerned among you, so that all of us in the Olympic Movement can benefit."

Coronavirus cases have declined in Japan over the last month, but given the global nature of the Olympics the health situation abroad may be as important in determining whether or not the Games can go ahead.

Much of Europe is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and the prevalence of the virus rates remain high in much of the Americas, as well as India.

A coronavirus countermeasures taskforce, formed of officials from the Japanese Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, is assessing possible scenarios and measures that could allow the Olympics to run as expected from July 23 to August 8 2021.

The Paralympics is then scheduled to follow from August 24 to September 5.

A system for allowing athletes to be exempt from travel restrictions is expected to be approved this week, while Japan's Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto recently said Tokyo 2020 should be held next year "at any cost".

By Michael Houston 

 

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