Letter to the Stakeholders of the Olympic Movement

John Coates

19 May 2021

By John Coates, Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission Tokyo 2020

Lausanne, 19 May 2021

Dear IOC Members,

Dear National Olympic Committees,

Dear International Federations,

Dear Athletes,

Dear Rights-Holding Broadcasters,

Dear TOP Partners,

 

Together with our Japanese partners and friends we are now entering into the operational delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Having just completed the Opening Plenary session of the final Coordination Commission meeting, as the Chair of the Commission, I felt that it was important to inform you directly about the latest developments.

Our objective throughout has been to organise safe and secure Olympic Games, and we are working in close partnership with our Japanese colleagues to deliver this goal. As President Bach noted in today’s meeting: “With just 65 days to go until the Opening Ceremony, we are now very delivery-focused. The athletes from all around the world are grateful to Japan for their diligent preparations, and are looking forward to safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games where they can finally shine.”

The President confirmed that as many as 75 per cent of the residents of the Olympic Village are already vaccinated or have secured vaccination. And we have good reason to believe that this figure will be well over 80 per cent at the time of the Games.

We fully appreciate the partnership that we have built over many years with our Japanese partners and friends in the Japanese Government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. This solidarity was underlined by President HASHIMOTO Seiko, who said today, “The purpose of our COVID-19 countermeasures is twofold: to provide a safe and secure environment for athletes and Games participants and, equally important, for the safety and security of the people of Japan. As the world faces so many shared challenges, the mission of these Games will be to point the way to how we can overcome them, and to pass that on to the next generation. Tokyo 2020 and the IOC are now entering the final stage of preparations for the Games. In the two months remaining, we will continue full and comprehensive preparations to make the Games a success.”

KOIKE Yuriko, Governor of Tokyo explained: “The most important element in delivering Games that will be safe and secure for everyone is COVID-19 countermeasures. We must continue to work out concrete plans in comprehensive detail. Successful Tokyo 2020 Games will be a light of hope in our fight to overcome the coronavirus. To that end, we must problem-solve and move forward at full speed with our preparations for the Games.  As host city, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will continue to work closely with the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and the Government of Japan in those preparations.”

MARUKAWA Tamayo, Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “As we work toward the safety and security of the Games, we must continue concrete studies and planning to ensure that the rules we set are not merely pie in the sky but are underpinned by finely-tuned methods and procedures for implementation. When it comes to the code of conduct for Games participants, we must formulate effective measures to ensure proper oversight and compliance for all participants’ activity plans, and make sure that information is widely disseminated, in order to keep the people of Japan feeling safe. I am sure Tokyo 2020 and the IOC will move forward with this, and the Government of Japan is ready to provide whatever support is necessary.”

This final Coordination Commission meeting is the moment to cement the work we have already done – particularly on health and safety – and the great work we have all contributed to in the Playbooks, which outline to each stakeholder group what is expected of them when they come to Tokyo this summer. With version two of the Playbooks just launched and version three coming in June, no one can be in any doubt about the thorough COVID-19 countermeasures that will be in place this summer. The teams in Tokyo are already training for the implementation of all these policies and procedures in order to welcome you, and the athletes of 206 National Olympic Committees, in the best possible manner to Japan.

The countermeasures detailed in the Playbooks are based on science, benefiting from learnings gathered during the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to implementing the most effective tools being used throughout society, such as screening testing, mask-wearing, personal hygiene and physical distancing, they also draw upon the experience of hundreds of sports events that have taken place safely across the world over the past year, with minimal risk to participants and also, importantly, the local population.

The Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Michael Ryan, has just recently welcomed the strict COVID-19 countermeasures. “There has been a tremendous amount of work done on the Playbooks for the teams and the delegations that are coming; a lot of preparations amongst those teams regarding testing and quarantines and arrival. And measures that are being taken in the Olympic Villages, in the training facilities and around the venues themselves,” he said.

He added: “The issues regarding the Olympics are multi-dimensional. […] It is not whether we will have [the] Olympics or not; it is how those individual risks within that framework are being managed.”

Acknowledging that the Games are a complex event that requires a great deal of logistics and risk management, Dr Ryan said WHO has “confidence that the International Olympic Committee and the host city Tokyo, and the Government of Japan, will make the right decisions regarding how best to manage the risks, and are working extremely hard right now to ensure that those risks are well managed.”

WHO is part of the All-Partners Task Force working on the countermeasures for the Games, which also includes the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the TMG, the Government of Japan and independent experts and organisations from across the world.

On the Coordination Commission agenda are a number of points showing the final steps being undertaken and the final pieces of the puzzle – made more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic – that are coming together. For example, we are discussing the final details linked to Ceremony operations, sport presentation, sport operations, athlete and NOC testing, Pre-Games training camps, transition planning to the Paralympics, and press booking systems. 

The next steps on the organisational front after this Coordination Commission meeting include my arrival in Tokyo on 15 June, to join our team that is already on the ground. As of 12 July, after the arrival of President Bach, we will move to the full Games-time coordination operations.

These have been difficult times for all of us since the start of the pandemic, and this summer the eyes of the world will be on us and on Japan. We have an obligation, as the Olympic Movement, to all of those involved to do our utmost to make these Games safe and secure, so that these Olympic and Paralympic Games can indeed be the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, the test events continue successfully in Tokyo and Japan. Just recently, athletes and team officials visited Japan to participate in the international volleyball matches – Tokyo Challenge 2021, the FINA Diving World Cup 2021, the Hokkaido – Sapporo Marathon Festival 2021 and READY STEADY TOKYO – Athletics, which were held under strict COVID-19 countermeasures. These included testing upon arrival at airports, frequent testing throughout their stay in Japan, activity restrictions (limitation of movements to hotels, competition venues and practice venues), and prevention of close contact through physical and temporal distancing. More than 700 athletes and over 6,000 related staff participated in the four test events.

Some International Federations have also successfully concluded their qualification events, including the FISA Asia & Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue and the World Triathlon Championships Series in Yokohama, working thoroughly with local federations and the government agencies.

In all of this, there are two groups that we should never forget. The Japanese people, who have demonstrated their perseverance throughout their history. It is only because of this ability of the Japanese people to overcome adversity that these Olympic Games, under these very difficult circumstances, are possible. And secondly the athletes of the world, who have been dreaming of and preparing for this moment for their entire lives. This is why these Games need to take place, and why these Games will resonate around the world. These Games will be a global stage for the athletes to give their best performances and to send a message of hope and solidarity from Japan to the world.

From all this, we see that we are on the right footing for delivery and enjoy the full cooperation of our Japanese partners and friends. We will, of course, also continue to update you after the launch of version three of the Playbooks, but before that, your IOC contact will be in touch after this Coordination Commission meeting to update you on the outcome. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to them should you have any other questions.

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