Published: 15:02, March 12, 2021 | Updated: 22:50, June 4, 2023
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Bach: Beijing set for 'extraordinary' year
By ​Shi Futian

This handout picture taken and released on March 10, 2021 by the International Olympic Committee shows IOC President Thomas Bach speaking after being re-elected during the 137th IOC Session held virtually in Lausanne. (GREG MARTIN / OIS/IOC / AFP)

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has declared Beijing ready for an "extraordinary" 2021, a year that sees parallel preparations for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

The Tokyo Games are now scheduled for July 23-Aug 8, with the Paralympics slated for Aug 24-Sept 5

"We could already see at the recent 'One Year to Go' celebrations that their technical preparations are in an excellent state," said Bach referring to Beijing 2022 at the 137th IOC Session on Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"All the venues are completed. In fact, the test events for the mountain cluster just took place a few days ago. Despite the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we can say already now with great confidence that the organizing committee is ready: ready to welcome the world's best winter sport athletes for this global celebration of sport.

"Preparing for two editions of the Olympic Games will continue to be challenging for many different reasons over the next months of this extraordinary Olympic year."

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Bach was on Wednesday reelected as president of the IOC until 2025. The 67-year-old German, who was initially elected in 2013 to succeed Belgian Jacques Rogge, received unanimous backing in the election in which he was the sole candidate, earning 93 of the 94 valid votes.

"Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for this overwhelming vote of confidence and trust," Bach said during an online meeting of IOC members.

"It's touching me deeply and also makes me humble," added the German, who described his first eight-year mandate as "not so easy".

Top of Bach's agenda now is how to ensure a "safe and secure" Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed from their original 2020 slot until this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Games are now scheduled for July 23-Aug 8, with the Paralympics slated for Aug 24-Sept 5.

Bach said it was no longer a question of whether the Olympics would take place but in what conditions they will be held. And the IOC president reiterated that the aim is to create "a safe, secure and fair environment for all the athletes".

"Tokyo remains the best-prepared Olympic city ever, and at this moment we have no reason to doubt that the opening ceremony will take place on July 23," said Bach.

"The question is not whether, the question is how these Olympic Games will take place.

"The IOC is working at full speed together with our Japanese partners and friends to make the postponed Olympic Games a safe manifestation of peace, solidarity and resilience of humankind in overcoming the pandemic."

Multiple media have reported that Tokyo organizers hope to keep foreign spectators away from the Games. A recent Yomiuri newspaper poll showed 77 percent of Japanese oppose the entry of foreign fans, while 48 percent hope the Games will be staged behind closed doors.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has said she wants a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.

Bach said after his reelection that the IOC has reached an agreement with Tokyo 2020 organizers to make an early decision on whether or not to allow foreign spectators at this summer's Games.

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"The obvious reason is that it involves the ticketing program, and has an impact on the arrangement of the spectators that may travel to Japan. It's a question of the safety and security of everyone," said Bach.

"This is a decision to be made as late as possible, simply to bear in mind the most recent development, so we need to leave the door open to take into account all developments that may take place, even in May and June. So there will be several stages regarding the decision-making.

"We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Japanese partners and friends. We are supporting them without any reservations."