TOKYO, Japan — The world needs to see that Japan can host a safe Olympics, according to the country’s prime minister, who spoke to sports leaders on Tuesday ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Softball and women’s soccer events begin on Wednesday, two days before the ceremonial opening ceremony of an Olympics that has already been postponed a year due to the coronavirus epidemic.
In a closed-door meeting at a five-star hotel in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reminded members of the International Olympic Committee that “the globe is facing enormous difficulties,” adding that “we can bring success to the delivery of the Games.”
He said that Japan’s recovery from the epidemic and progress toward the Olympics had been “somewhat backward at times.”
“However, immunization has begun, and after a long tunnel, we are nearing the end,” Suga added.
More than 21% of Japan’s 126 million people have been immunized, according to the prime minister’s office.
Health experts in Japan have expressed reservations about letting so many overseas tourists attend the games, which will finish on August 8. At events, there will be no local or international supporters. In late August, the Paralympics will take place.
IOC President Thomas Bach singled out Pfizer BioNTech for “a genuinely crucial contribution” in praising vaccine producers for working on a special Olympic rollout.
According to Bach, “85 percent of Olympic Village inhabitants and 100 percent of IOC members present here have either been vaccinated or are immune” to COVID-19 as a result of the collaboration.
Around 85 of the 101 members of the IOC were present for their first face-to-face meeting since January 2020. Their last two sessions, including the one in March to re-elect Bach, were held virtually.
The IOC refuses to comment on whether any members who have not been vaccinated have been asked to leave. Ryu Seung-min of South Korea, who was unable to attend the summit, tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on a flight on Saturday.
Protesters have chanted anti-Olympic slogans at Bach’s trips to Japan since his arrival two weeks ago, including at a state welcome reception with Suga on Sunday.
“They will appreciate the Japanese people for what they have accomplished,” Bach said, adding that the games will transmit a message of peace, unity, and perseverance.
Bach stated that canceling the Olympics would never be an option because “the IOC never abandons the athletes.”
The games will also bring in more than $3 billion in income from broadcasters all around the world. It contributes to the funding of the IOC, located in Switzerland, which distributes hundreds of millions of euros to the 206 national teams as well as the governing organizations of Olympic sports.
According to Bach, the IOC will provide $1.7 billion to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizers.