GENEVA – The IOC on Wednesday downplayed concerns about Japanese public opinion that the Tokyo Olympics should be canceled before the virtual press conference was interrupted by an activist protesting the Games.
The press conference followed a monthly meeting of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee held in Tokyo during a state of emergency to contain the rising COVID-19 cases. Polls in Japan also suggest that people want July 23 through August 23. 8 Olympic Games are canceled after having been postponed for a year.
“We listen, but we don’t let public opinion guide us,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams, adding, “everything tells us that the games can and will go on.”
Adams stood up for his boss, IOC President Thomas Bach, whose planned visit to Japan next week on Monday was canceled after the states of emergency in Tokyo and other regions were extended until May.
The final question from the press conference, held via video call, was offered to a reporter from Yahoo Sports. Instead, an activist appeared on the screen holding up a black and white banner against the Tokyo Olympics.
“No Olympics anywhere, no Olympics anywhere,” he said before using an obscenity to add “No LA Olympics, no Tokyo Olympics” before cutting the line. The 2028 Olympics will take place in Los Angeles.
Adams made the interruption clear, noting that if Bach had been present, “probably would have made this stunt a little bit more interesting”.
The NOlympics LA group later claimed on its Twitter account that it “crashed the IOC press conference”.
A tricky week for the IOC comes just 78 days before the Tokyo Olympics open. Adams said this was a “historic moment” for the world and would make the Japanese people proud.
The Olympics tend to become increasingly popular in the host country before the momentum picks up when the Games open and competition begins.
“I am very confident that we will see public opinion very much in favor of the Games,” said Adams, adding that the Japanese strongly supported Tokyo’s candidacy. It won a competition against Madrid and Istanbul in 2013.
Nonetheless, opposition to an Olympics that cost at least $ 15 billion in mostly taxpayers’ money seems to be intensifying.
Adams said the IOC and Tokyo organizers are aware of private polls, although details were not released on Wednesday.
Testing events continued in Tokyo amid the uncertainty and disrupted plans for the ongoing four-month torch relay across Japan. Olympic qualification tournaments were also held around the world.
Roughly 7,800 athletes have qualified for the Games – 70% of the total quota – and another 10% of the spots are slated to be allocated by June 29, Adams said. Around 20% of the entries will be awarded in some of the 33 sports according to the world rankings.
A “large and growing number” of attendees will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving at the Tokyo Athletic Village, Adams said.
The IOC has made arrangements to buy Chinese vaccines and receive canned donations from Pfizer to be distributed to Olympic team delegations around the world.