Shortly before the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo (July 23 to August 8), IOC President Dr. Thomas Bach in an exclusive interview with SWR Sport about the difficult discussions about postponing the games, about the audience question and about demonstrating athletes.
Imagine it’s the Olympic Games and nobody is allowed to stand. The 17-day mega-event is an endurance test for every city. London (2012), Rio de Janeiro (2016), now Tokyo – the Olympic family ends up in the city, enjoys privileges and then left again. To be able to see the best athletes in the world is the compensation for seven years of construction.
And now this: The games will largely take place without spectators. Excluding supporters from most of the sporting competitions in Tokyo was not an easy decision, but it was necessary, said Thomas Bach in an interview with SWR Sport, connected from the TV studio that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set up. Just no contacts – “social distancing”. In Tokyo, the “state of emergency” was extended. State of emergency, not lockdown or state of emergency. Bars and restaurants are open – even if the athletes and journalists are barely allowed to move in the city.
Doubts also with the IOC president
On the way to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Bach himself was evidently often in doubt. When the games were postponed by a year in March 2020, the complexity of the decision could not be overlooked, said the Tauberbischofsheimer. “There was no role model for that. It was completely new territory that we entered and every day there were doubts, considerations of so many decisions.” Bach wanted to prevent it from being discussed in public.
“Imagine if we had all these doubts, all these deliberations, all this wrestling, played in the open market. Then these games would have crumbled in our hands because we couldn’t have built trust anywhere – not with the athletes, not with the National Olympic Committees, not with the sponsors, not with the Japanese government, not with the international community, which has supported us very, very much – from the United Nations through the G7 and the G20. “
Shortly before the start of the Olympic Games, which are still called Tokyo 2020, Bach is certain: “If we had sown this uncertainty there, we would never have received this support. That was an aggravating factor We ask for your understanding, but also be much more grateful to all these supporters because they trusted us. “
Everyone would have loved to see full stadiums
What the 67-year-old thinks that 65,000 spectators were allowed in the final of the European Football Championship in London, he did not want to say that the conditions were different. A soccer game is a single event, whereas the Olympic Games have a large number of competitions held at the same time. For this, many traffic movements are necessary, “social distancing” can no longer be observed – in public transport and in restaurants. “I think everyone would have preferred to see full stadiums and a full Olympic atmosphere. But it was a necessary decision that we said before that, whatever it turns out, we will agree,” said Bach.
Cheers from the archive against ghost games
The IOC’s own production company OBS will produce 9,000 hours of broadcast. In order to give the athletes the feeling that they are not alone, noises and cheers from past games are fetched from the archives to match the respective competitions and played over loudspeakers in the arenas. The ghosts of past games in the first ghost games.
Right to demonstrate in Tokyo and Beijing in 2022
Another innovation: On the initiative of the IOC Athletes Commission, rule 50.2 (demonstrations, advertising, propaganda) of the Olympic Charter was relaxed. 3,500 athletes from 185 nations submitted proposals. Athletes can vouch for their opinions at interviews, press conferences and even in the stadiums – as long as the protest is not directed against the competitors. The new freedom of expression should first be tested in Tokyo, but also at the upcoming winter games in Beijing in 2022, said Bach.
The IOC will presumably also amend the Olympic Charter for this purpose: “I assume that the Charter will have to be made more precise there, because in parts it has actually led to misunderstandings. And that’s why, from my current point of view, that will probably be the solution that the charter will be adapted accordingly. “