— Published 4 August 2021

For the IOC, the Tokyo Games’ bet is a success

Tokyo 2020

With four days to go before the end of the event, the Tokyo Games are not yet ready to make an assessment. But the IOC is not waiting for the Olympic flame to be extinguished to try doing so.

Thomas Bach, its president, will formally deliver it on Friday, August 6th, during his last press conference in the Japanese capital. While waiting for a very official statement, the IOC’s Director of Operations for the Olympic Games, Pierre Ducrey, gave FrancsJeux his first analysis.

FrancsJeux: Have the Tokyo Games gone as well as you expected, or even better?

Pierre Ducrey: So far, the result is in the top end of what we expected given the sanitary crisis context. The operational challenge is always colossal. In Tokyo, it was even more so with COVID-19. Right up to the last moment, we had to adapt, change things and show great flexibility. On the transport issue, for example. But in the end, we got what we hoped for: Olympic Games, and safe Games for the participants. In such a situation, the best marker was the positivity rate. It speaks for itself (0.08%). As for the rest, the exceptional quality of the venues made it possible for us to offer a sporting event of an incredible level.

Did the adjustments imposed by the sanitary crisis give you any ideas for the next editions, even in a more normal context?

The COVID-19 pandemic led us to do a lot of work to reduce the number of events before the Tokyo Games. It turns out that some things can be duplicated in the future. A later opening of the athletes’ village, for example. Shorter time slots for the press centres, too. The reduction of the number of accredited people, too, could be maintained for future editions.

Could these changes take place as early as the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing?

Discussions are underway with the Chinese organisers, with many elements in place, but we want to give ourselves time. One thing is certain: everything must be reconsidered for these Winter Games, with interesting lessons to be learned from the Tokyo Games, especially with regard to wearing masks, social distancing, transport and the attitude of accredited officials. Vaccination will undoubtedly play a very important role. Its rate was very high in Tokyo, but it will be even higher next February in Beijing.

The sanitary crisis led the Japanese organisers to reduce the duration of the athletes’ stay in the village. Will this be repeated in the future, with successive occupying waves, as for the 2020 Winter Youth Games in Lausanne?

It’s too early to say. We will debrief and discuss it with the stakeholders, including the IOC Athletes’ Commission. The subject is very sensitive. There is no question of sacrificing the experience of the athletes, they must be able to live every moment of their Games to the fullest.

The Tokyo Games are being held behind closed doors, with a heavy sanitary burden. Yet new records are being set. How do you explain this?

First of all, by the quality of the competition venues offered by the Japanese. The athletes’ feedback is full of praise in this respect. In addition, the athletes have been deprived of many international competitions since last year. For many of them, the Games are their sole sporting event. They focused even more strongly on this goal. Finally, I think that the context has created a particular atmosphere, very positive, with great solidarity between the athletes. They are happy just being here. The energy is very positive, the pressure perhaps a little less important. This state of mind undoubtedly favours performance.

Have you ever considered, at any time since the start of the Games, to make the Games’ closed-door rule more flexible by introducing a spectator gauge?

No. We never lost sight of our primary objective: to hold safe and secure Games. Changing our approach would have been risky. There was no question of taking any risks.