Olympics chief Thomas Bach revealed “doubts” and “sleepless nights” over the postponed Tokyo Games on Tuesday because the opening ceremony nears after a year’s delay and coronavirus chaos that has made them deeply unpopular with the Japanese public. Bach, speaking at the International Olympic Committee session in Tokyo, said the unprecedented step of postponing the Games had proved more complicated than he thought. The build-up to Friday’s opening ceremony has been exceptionally rocky, with Tokyo still under a state of emergency and popular opinion consistently against the Games, which can be held largely without spectators.
“Over the past 15 months, we had to form many choices on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts a day. We deliberated and discussed. there have been sleepless nights,” said Bach.
“This also weighed on us, it weighed on me. But to reach today we had to offer confidence, had to point out how out of this crisis,” he added.
Bach has drawn scattered protests during his visit to Japan, where the newest poll within the Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed 55 percent of respondents opposed holding the Games this summer.
Four people have tested positive within the Olympic Village, heightening fears that the influx of thousands of athletes, officials, and media will increase a spike in cases in Japan.
A teenage US gymnast staying outside the Village was also among the 71 Games-related cases reported thus far.
Olympic and Japanese officials have staunchly defended the Games, which are being held during a strict biosecure “bubble” with daily testing. Eighty percent of athletes at the Games are vaccinated.
“We can finally see at the top of the dark tunnel,” said Bach, adding: “Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes… we did it for the athletes.”
Bach was speaking at an unusual IOC session, where mask-wearing delegates sat socially distanced at individual desks, and therefore the podium microphone was wiped after each speaker.
It reflected an Olympics which can mainly happen in empty stadiums to the sound of recorded crowd noises, starting with the opening ceremony within the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
The ceremony will happen without the music of Keigo ‘Cornelius’ Oyamada, who quit on Monday after an outcry over past interviews where he described bullying disabled schoolmates.
“I became painfully aware that accepting the offer of my musical participation within the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics lacked consideration to tons of individuals,” he said during a statement.
Major sponsor Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, also scrapped plans to run an Olympic-linked brand campaign in Japan, as a senior official said the Games lacked “understanding” from the general public.