By James Toney
Olympic officials have expressed confidence next year’s Tokyo Games will go ahead but admitted they will look unlike any Games that have gone before.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach struck an upbeat note as he briefed reporters, even hinting that spectators from around the world could be allowed to travel to Japan.
The country has suspended its visa waiver system and is enforcing a strict 14 day quarantine for all international travellers, rules that could be relaxed for athletes in the months ahead.
“We are working on the basis there will be international spectators,” Bach told media after a meeting of the IOC’s executive board in Lausanne.
“What we do not know is if we can fill stadia to full capacity or if other measures would have to be applied.
“We are ten months away from the Games and you can’t have any expectations that measures will be lifted at this moment in time.
“We saw very encouraging start in some of the leagues in Japan in the past couple of weeks with a good number of spectators.
“We have to see again with the additional tools at our disposal next year how we can fill the stadia and how much we can fill them.”
Bach expressed confidence in the plans of Japanese officials after a conference call with new prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who has made the successful hosting of the Games a top political priority.
However, a report expected to be delivered in December could make radical changes to the expected look and feel of the event with action behind closed doors - a concept dismissed as unthinkable this April - now being actively considered.
Also for debate is a huge reduction in the travelling circus that accompanies the Games, including the 25,000 accredited media.
While any expenditure relating to the athlete experience is being ring-fenced, Bach made clear he expects saving to be made.
“We need to make the Olympics fit for the post-covid world,” he added.
“Our world will never be as it was at the beginning of the year. How can we concentrate on the essentials of the Olympics, perhaps not the 'nice to haves' and reduce the costs?"
While expressing confidence in the medical advances regarding vaccines and testing, Bach also admitted he expected Covid-19 counter measures to be a part of planning for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
He assured the big budget opening and closing ceremonies would go ahead, though confessed Mansai Nomura’s shows, reported to cost £94 million (13 billion yen), could be simplified and take a sombre tone.
“The opening ceremony is the showcase for the host country to show its perception of the Olympics with one billion people watching,” he said.
“We should maintain the format of the ceremony and not touch the athletes’ experience.”