Thomas Bach praises ‘soul’ of Tokyo Olympics but faces swift backlash

  • IOC president criticised as ‘delusional’ on social media
  • ‘Athletes gave these Games a great Olympic soul,’ says Bach

Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, has hailed athletes for giving “soul” to the Games and admitted he feared for the event after almost all spectators were barred.

However, his claims that the Tokyo Games had “far exceeded my personal expectations”, and had been a great success were widely criticised on Japanese social media with users calling him “an Olympic aristocrat who is trapped in a delusional shell”.

Speaking two days before the Olympics end on Sunday, Bach struck an upbeat note. “After we had to accept the decision by the Japanese authorities to have no spectators, I must admit we were concerned that these Olympic Games could become an Olympic Games without soul,” he said.

“But fortunately what we have seen here is totally different. Because the athletes gave these Olympic Games a great Olympic soul. From what I experienced at the Olympic village and the competition sites, I must say that the atmosphere has been more intense than ever before.

“Tokyo is the best-ever prepared Olympic city. This has proven to be true,” he said, citing reasons such as the “efficiency” of anti-Covid-19 measures implemented before and during the 17-day Games, which are mostly being held behind closed doors.

On Thursday, Tokyo’s confirmed daily Covid-19 cases hit another record high of 5,042. Bach insisted, however, that the spike in the number of cases was not linked to the Olympics, pointing out the 11,000 athletes had been in a bubble away from the population while everyone else involved in the Games had been regularly tested with very low rates of positives.

“Our mission was and is to keep the athletes safe and have no transfer from athletes to the population,” Bach said. “All the figures confirm this concept has worked. This is supported by the WHO and experts around the world. We have full confidence in the Japanese authorities and that they are addressing these in the right way.”

Bach said he had been impressed and surprised with the standard of competition given the challenges of the pandemic. “What we can see now is that these Games are coming at a moment where the world was longing for a symbol of hope.”

However Bach’s speech was soon the most trending item on Twitter in Japan, with the reaction generally hostile. “I’m angry,” wrote one user. “There wasn’t a word of hope for people who work at the risk of their lives in the medical field in order to support the Olympics.”

Contributor

Sean Ingle in Tokyo

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thomas Bach promises ‘safe and secure’ Olympics as Tokyo Covid cases soar
IOC president Thomas Bach promises ‘safe and secure’ Olympics as Tokyo Covid cases soar to highest level for almost six months

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

14, Jul, 2021 @10:59 AM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics ‘moving fully ahead’ as protester disrupts press conference
IOC insists it is ‘moving fully ahead’ with Games despite growing public unease in Japan after the state of emergency in the country was extended

Sean Ingle

12, May, 2021 @4:50 PM

Article image
Overseas fans face ban from Tokyo Olympics, reports news agency
Japan’s government has decided to stage the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators, the Kyodo news agency has reported

Sean Ingle

09, Mar, 2021 @5:33 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics will be closed to fans from abroad, hints Games organiser
The president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee has hinted that overseas spectators will not be admitted to this summer’s Games and a local paper said a decision had been made

Tony Paley and agencies

03, Mar, 2021 @7:32 PM

Article image
Fresh fears for Tokyo Olympics as host city sees surge in Covid-19 infections
Tokyo reported 1,300 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, a one-day high, and health experts are concerned about how the Olympics will affect an already overstretched medical infrastructure

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

01, Jan, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Tokyo 2020 will allow up to 10,000 domestic fans into Olympic venues
Up to 10,000 Japanese fans will be allowed into Olympic venues at Tokyo 2020 despite warnings from health experts

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

21, Jun, 2021 @9:52 AM

Article image
79,000 people flying in for Tokyo Olympics, Japanese media reports
Organisers of Games are pressing ahead despite massive public opposition due to Covid pandemic

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

20, May, 2021 @11:51 AM

Article image
IOC insists Tokyo Olympics will go ahead despite coronavirus
The International Olympic Committee insisted that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as planned despite the coronavirus

Sean Ingle

14, Feb, 2020 @2:43 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympic Games organisers release new Covid-19 guidelines
Athletes will need to record two negative tests before arrival but decision on local spectators delayed

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

28, Apr, 2021 @3:10 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the Tokyo Olympics: must the show go on?
With coronavirus surging in Japan and internationally, this summer’s Games are a risky prospect

Editorial

12, Apr, 2021 @5:25 PM