"Come with full confidence to Tokyo and get ready," IOC President Bach tells IAF 2021

IOC President Thomas Bach joined the biggest International Athletes Forum ever to give updates on Olympic preparations and discuss the 'Playbook' on how the Tokyo 2020 Games can be safely delivered.

By Ken Browne
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the 10th International Athletes' Forum (IAF) to confirm that the preparations and delivery of a safe Tokyo 2020 Games this summer are in their final stages.

Just 57 days from the start of the Games, Mr. Bach said "Tokyo is the best prepared Olympic city ever," stressing that "it's about making the athletes feel comfortable and making the Japanese people feel comfortable," as updates on progress on the ground were also shared.

It was the largest ever IAF forum as around 2,000 athletes and Olympian representatives joined over two days to have their voices heard, and this was the first time the forum happened virtually.

Athletes expressed their support and excitement for the upcoming Games, like two-time Olympic canoe medallist Jessica Fox from Australia who said:

"I’m really looking forward to finally getting over there. There’s been great communication from the IOC, and I have full confidence in everyone at the Tokyo Organising Committee to put on a safe Olympic Games.”

During the two-day event many topics were covered, and proposals made for improvements moving forward. On Day 1 Olympic alpine skiing champion Lindsey Vonn shared her personal mental health journey as the day focussed on athlete wellbeing, safeguarding, and mental health.

Day 2 saw many athletes share their excitement about and confidence in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, talking about the successful delivery of the test events held in the past few months, and also expressing their commitment to respecting the measures detailed in the Playbooks in order to deliver a safe Olympic Games for all participants and all the Japanese people.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: "Here we go"

IOC President Bach joined the studio in Lausanne to answer questions from participants on many different topics.

On the Tokyo Olympics, he highlighted the progress on the ground and importance of the Seven Playbooks that lay out in detail how the Athletes, Federations, Olympic and Paralympic Family, Marketing Partners, Broadcasters, Press, and Workforce can help delivery a secure and successful Games.

He also added that there are other things everyone involved can do, like taking the vaccination when it is available:

On top of the playbooks you will take the opportunity whenever it arises to take vaccinated because this will increase the safety there for everybody, for yourself, for all your fellow athletes and for the Japanese people, so please if you have the opportunity... then accept the vaccination. - IOC President Thomas Bach

Asked about the welfare of the athletes at the Games, President Bach said:

"Because of the pandemic we all know the athletes' experience will be very different but what is important is the competitions - these are the essentials - can and will take place in a safe way and in full respect.

"The president of the organising committee is a seven-time Olympian, he continued, "so this should give all of us a lot of confidence that it's really about the athletes and about making the athletes feel comfortable and making the Japanese people feel comfortable and there again this high vaccination rate is an important factor on top of all the measures and restrictions that we will respect as we have them in the Playbooks."

In this respect, the athletes and participants also highlighted the importance of their own role in actively sharing information to ensure all athletes and everyone else has the latest information and a clear understanding of the arrangements in place in Tokyo.

Preparations reach final stages at Tokyo 2020

Further pressed on preparations and updates from the ground in Tokyo, Bach handed over to Pierre Ducrey, Olympic Games Operations Director, who gave us a good idea of where things stand:

"A lot of finalising the venues, they are fantastic, we are working very closely with the Federations, preparing the village, taking into account the elements of Covid, the Playbooks are being updated and this will come in the middle of June with the latest information so that you have everything in your hand, to know what to expect from the moment you leave your home to the moment you get to Tokyo to the moment you leave Tokyo."

"On the ground here work is really progressing when it comes to testing and exercising, we are running a lot of exercises at the venues, centrally, working very closely with all the stakeholders... of course with the Organising Committee but also with the city of Tokyo, the massive number of volunteers that they have that want to be part of these Games.

"We also have, working with us, the Japanese government... to ensure that we are in the exact place we want to be on the 23rd of July and before that when the athletes start to arrive.

"So on the ground here, a lot of preparation, hard-working people... They are so excited to be able to count the days that separate them from these Games that they have been waiting for for so long."

Tamás Tóth, World Triathlon AC Chair spoke from experience:

“Two weeks ago we successfully delivered our first bubble system in Yokohama, which was our first Olympic qualification race this year. Over 117 elite athletes competed there and I would like to reassure all of my fellow Olympians who are preparing for Tokyo about the service from the IOC, and from the host nation.

"From the moment that you arrive at the airport, you’re guided to your hotel, and the professionalism at the training venues was so amazing that I’m super confident about how it’ll be done in Tokyo. The Japanese perfection was there and I’m really looking forward to the Games.”

President Bach added:

"The name of our task force is 'Here We Go', it's the same for all of you who are looking forward to participating in Tokyo, so let's go!"

Digital IAF

Yesterday double swimming gold medallist and Chairperson of the IOC Athletes' Commission Kirsty Coventry opened the two-day IAF, saying:

"This year, the IOC AC (Athletes' Commission) celebrates its 40th anniversary, to mark this milestone, while taking advantage of the fact that the IAF will be held digitally, invitations have been extended to all AC members globally, in addition to the AC chairs.

"This gives the opportunity for more athlete representatives to have their voices heard and to discuss in greater depth the issues which matter to all of us."

And opening the session on Day 2, Coventry talked about the importance of working together:

"We need to know and I am sure that all of you know that we are stronger together and we will achieve more through meaningful collaboration and dialogue with our entire athlete community and stakeholders.”

Fostering athletes’ rights and responsibilities

In line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 recommendations, the following points were reinforced/highlighted by the participants of the 10th International Athletes’ Forum.

·      The IOC to strengthen its effort to ensure that all NOCs and IFs support their ACs to be effective in their role as athlete representatives.

·      All IFs and NOCs to adopt and implement the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration.

·      All NOCs and IFs to make their funding streams transparent to all stakeholders and communicate clearly on the various direct and indirect support they offer to athletes.

·      The IOC AC, together with the mental health working group, to develop training for ACs to prepare them as they aim to better support and guide athletes in their time of need.

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