After paying his first visit to the Olympic Stadium and the Athletes' Village, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had one simple message for the athletes:
You will love Tokyo 2020.
"It’s very emotional", Bach said on Tuesday (17 November) at the Olympic Stadium as part of a whirlwind tour through the city with a stop also at the Japan Olympic Museum.
"Imagine nine months from now, you’re coming here through this gate and then it will be a real Olympic Stadium. It has a lot of atmosphere now, even when it’s empty. It’s fantastic".
"We all think it’s really fantastic", he said of the village located out by Tokyo Bay. "You see inside there’s lots of space, good lighting and the view of the Rainbow Bridge.
"(The athletes) will fall in love with Tokyo".
Bach, on his third day in Japan, said he was pleased to see ample space provided at the village for social distancing, where he met and sought feedback from Japanese Olympians Ueda Ai (triathlon) and Chida Kenta (fencing) and Para-shuttler Satomi Sarina.
The president seemed to take particular delight in setting foot at the stadium, built on the same premises as the old National Stadium built for Tokyo 1964.
The stadium's architect, Kuma Kengo, was on the jury of the design competition for Olympic House, home of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"It’s very authentic Japanese culture and architecture", Bach said of the venue which has a natural, wooden feel.
"You see the colours and the very sober and simplified design. I’m happy the stadium was built in this way. It’s a great architecture".
Vaccine non-mandatory for Games
Bach said he would love to see the stadium full next summer but that would hinge on the continued improvement of coronavirus countermeasures and the availability of a vaccine in nine months' time.
The German reiterated what he said a day earlier, that a vaccine - if available - would not be mandatory for Games's participants as he feels that is "a question of private health".
The IOC, though, will push for vaccination to keep the Japanese public as safe and secure as possible.
"There will be no requirement but we will encourage athletes that whenever possible, they have a vaccination because it’s better for their health and it’s also a demonstration of solidarity with their fellow athletes and with the Japanese people", Bach said.
"In this kind of uncertainty it’s only human to be uncertain about such a big event like the Olympic Games. This we have to understand and keep explaining that nine months from now, the world will look different and for what reasons it will look different.
"Just yesterday we heard about the new announcement of the next vaccine which is closer to being approved. These developments will continue to follow.
"Everybody wants to see a stadium filled with spectators, at full capacity. What will be reasonable nine months from now we do not know yet".