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IOC plans for international spectators for Tokyo Olympics as confidence rises

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Venue Tour

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 03: A general view of the new National Stadium prior to a media tour of Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues on July 03, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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IOC President Thomas Bach said confidence is rising regarding the Tokyo Olympics given rapid coronavirus testing and the possibility of a vaccine.

“We are almost more confident that, at the beginning of the next year, we can add to the tools for the counter measures [to the virus],” Bach said Wednesday. “New, even more reliable rapid tests and also vaccine, or vaccines, even will be available. This makes both the organizing committee and the IOC very, very confident about the Opening Ceremony on 23rd of July.”

The IOC and Tokyo organizers, who are following direction from medical experts including the World Health Organization, have not said vaccine availability is a prerequisite for the Games taking place.

“We remain committed to this one overarching principle we have established already before the postponement — this means to organize the Olympic Games only by safeguarding the safety and the health of all people involved in the Olympic Games,” Bach said when asked by Mike Tirico in July about needing a significant medical advancement or vaccine. “We will address the circumstances as they may arise.”

Bach also said Wednesday that Olympic officials are working on the basis that spectators coming from outside Japan will be allowed at the Games.

“What we do not know is whether we can fill the stadia to full capacity or whether other measures would have to be applied,” Bach said. “In the last couple of weeks, we could [see] during this second wave, which is obviously under way, that you can organize big and complex sporting events.

“You have seen the start of the big [Japanese] professional leagues [baseball, soccer] with certain number of spectators.”

Organizers found more than 50 ways to simplify the Games, saving $280 million.

It has been stressed that the athlete experience will not be impacted. The number of events and athletes will not be reduced.

Tokyo organizers said Sept. 25 that the overall contents of Opening and Closing Ceremonies could be affected.

“The Opening Ceremony is the showcase for the host country to show its culture, to show its perception of the Olympic Games, the Olympic values,” Bach said. “While content may be adjusted one way or another, we will not touch on the athletes’ experience.”

Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director for the Olympic Games, expects “a clearer picture” by the end of 2020 for operational policies for the Games -- “from transportation to spectators, food and beverage, every single detail.”

“There is a lot of confidence because of these new elements regarding rapid testing and the vaccines,” Dubi said when asked if there’s a deadline on deciding whether fans will be allowed from outside Japan. “So, no deadline, but a clearer picture, and then we’ll move into spring and summer to establish, finally, the policies.”

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