— Published 6 August 2021

Thomas Bach: The Tokyo Games have exceeded my expectations

Thomas Bach

The event is always anticipated. At least for the Olympic movement. The IOC President’s post-Games press conference. Thomas Bach, the current Master of the Rings, has never shied away from it since he took office in the autumn of 2013. In Tokyo, he continued the tradition.

For the occasion, the German leader took a little bit of an advance. He took the podium in the huge conference room of the Main Press Centre (MPC) in the early afternoon of Friday, August 6th. Two and a half days before the end of the Tokyo Games.

The reason: an express trip to Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido, where Thomas Bach will attend the men’s marathon on Saturday morning, the last event of the athletics competitions. But the IOC President took advantage of the early date of his meeting with the media to avoid certain questions about the Tokyo Games’ assessment. Clever.

For over an hour, Thomas Bach gave his impression of the Olympic event and answered all the questions. With one exception: the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. “We’re here to talk about the Tokyo Games, not the next ones,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said after two journalists tried to draw Thomas Bach into the slippery slope of China and the 2022 Winter Games. Clever, too.

The Tokyo Games review. Tony Bach repeated it, emphasising every word: the Tokyo Games exceeded his expectations. “I said before the start that Tokyo was the best prepared Olympic city in history. What we have experienced since the opening proves that this was true. We didn’t even have to hold a single coordination meeting for a week. The Tokyo Games came at a time when the world needed a message of hope. They showed that it is possible to organise an event with people from all over the world, that it is possible to bring people together again.”

The athletes. The athletes were the first participants in the Games, and even more so in an Olympic event with no spectators. Thomas Bach met them everywhere, in the village and on competition venues. He listened to them. “I felt, especially in the village, an even more united and cheerful atmosphere among them than in previous editions. The athletes were happy to be there. Happy to be together. Happy to be in a great competition. They are all, I think, very grateful to the Japanese for keeping the Tokyo Games going despite the situation and the difficulties”. The IOC President pointed out that more than 800 athletes at the Tokyo Games have benefited from Olympic Solidarity assistance during their careers. At the Tokyo Games, they won 23 gold, 25 silver and 25 bronze medals.

The new sports. According to Thomas Bach, they have brought freshness and youth. “The athletes from these new sports (skateboarding, climbing, surfing, etc.) turned out to be very enthusiastic Olympians. The addition of these sports or disciplines has made the Tokyo Games younger, more urban and even more gender-balanced. I have to admit that the inclusion of skateboarding in the programme raised some doubts. We were skeptical, as was the international federation. But we could see during these Games that the marriage was successful”.

The cancellation of the Games. The admission may come as a surprise, but Thomas Bach acknowledged that the cancellation of the Tokyo Games, a scenario that had long been considered, would have been a good deal for the IOC, financially speaking. “We were covered by insurance, we would not have lost any money. On the other hand, it cost us to keep the Games, because we had released an envelope of 800 million dollars to make the event possible. A cancellation would have been terrible for the investments made by the Japanese. No one would have come to see all their achievements”. But the IOC president confirmed that the Olympic body would not contribute to compensate for the Japanese loss of revenue because of the absence of spectators. “We have already contributed to the budget of the Tokyo Games with a grant of 1.7 billion dollars, plus another 800 million after the decision to postpone. And we helped them save $4.6 billion by reworking the original plans.” More would be too much.