IOC President’s speech - Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony

IOC President Thomas Bach © IOC / Greg Martin

Please find below the full speech delivered by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 today, 23 July 2021.

Your Majesty, the Emperor,

Dear Athletes,

Dear Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide,

Dear Governor Koike Yuriko,

Dear President of the Organising Committee and fellow Olympian Hashimoto Seiko,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Olympic friends,

Welcome to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment. Finally we are all here together: the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, living under one roof together in the Olympic Village.

This is the unifying power of sport. This is the message of solidarity, the message of peace and the message of resilience. This gives all of us hope for our further journey together.

We can only be all together here, because of you, our gracious hosts, the Japanese people, to whom we would like to express all our appreciation and respect.

The Organising Committee, and the Japanese authorities at all levels have done extraordinary work for which, on behalf of all the Olympic athletes, I want to express our deepest gratitude.

Ten years ago, you set out on the journey to bring the Olympic spirit back to Tokyo after the outstanding Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. It was a difficult journey, with unprecedented challenges: first, reconstructing after the Great East Japan Earthquake, then the coronavirus pandemic. This is why our gratitude and admiration for you is even greater.

We thank all the many unsung heroes, the doctors, nurses and all the Japanese people who contribute to contain the pandemic.

A special thanks goes to the thousands of volunteers, who despite all the challenges they had to face, welcomed us wholeheartedly. You are the best ambassadors for Japan. A big thank you to all volunteers!

Thank you to all Japanese people for making the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 possible.

What is true for the perseverance of the Japanese people is also true for you, my fellow Olympic athletes.

You had to face great challenges on your Olympic journey. Like all of us, you were living with great uncertainty through the pandemic. You did not know when you could train again. You did not know whether you could see your coach tomorrow. You did not know if your teammates would be with you for the next competition. You did not even know if this competition would take place at all.

You struggled, you persevered, you never gave up, and today you are making your Olympic dream come true.

You are true Olympic athletes.

You inspired us, the IOC and the entire Olympic community. You inspired us to fight like you, and for you, to make this moment possible.

This is why, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the National Olympic Committees, the International Federations, all our TOP partners and sponsors and our Rights-Holding Broadcasters for standing together with us.

This made all of us a true community – the Olympic community.

Dear athletes.

This Olympic community is with you tonight and during the entire Olympic Games. Billions of people from around the globe will be glued to their screens, sending you their enthusiasm, their energy and cheering you on.

Our Olympic community learned that we can address the many big challenges of our times only if we stand together. 

The lesson we learned is: We need more solidarity. More solidarity among societies and more solidarity within societies.

Solidarity means much more than just respect or non-discrimination.

Solidarity means helping. Sharing. Caring.

This is what we are doing in our Olympic community. We are standing in solidarity to make the Olympic Games happen and to enable all of you, the athletes from all National Olympic Committees, whether big or small, whether rich or poor, and from all Olympic sports, to take part in the Olympic Games.

This solidarity fuels our mission to make the world a better place through sport. Only because of this solidarity we can be here together tonight.

Solidarity also reflects our 3,000-year old commitment to peace.

Without solidarity, there is no peace.

In this Olympic spirit of solidarity and peace, we welcome the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

Dear refugee athletes.

With your talent and human spirit, you are demonstrating what an enrichment refugees are for society. You had to flee from your homes because of violence, hunger or just because you were different. Today, we welcome you with open arms and offer you a peaceful home. Welcome to our Olympic community.

In this Olympic community we are all equal. We all respect the same rules.

This Olympic experience makes all of us very humble because we feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of an event that unites the world. United in all our diversity, we become bigger than the sum of our parts. We are always stronger together.

This is why we are so grateful to you, the athletes, for expressing your commitment to these Olympic values of solidarity, non-discrimination, sport without doping, inclusion and equality in your new Olympic oath. 

We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger, if we stand together – in solidarity.

This is why, the IOC has adapted the Olympic motto to our times: faster, higher, stronger – together.

This feeling of togetherness – this is the light at the end of the dark tunnel. 

The pandemic forced us to be apart. To keep our distance from each other. To stay away even from our loved ones. This separation made this tunnel so dark.

But today, wherever in the world you may be, we are united in sharing this moment together. The Olympic flame makes this light shine brighter for all of us.

Now I have the great honour of inviting His Majesty the Emperor to declare open the Games of the 32nd Olympiad, Tokyo 2020.

I humbly request his Majesty the Emperor to declare open the Tokyo Olympic Games.


The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit, civil, non-governmental, international organisation made up of volunteers which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of USD 3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.


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