27 Jan 2021

The question is not “if”, it is a question of “how”; such was the positive response of Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), following the virtual meeting on Monday 25th January attended by Thomas Weikert, President of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and Raul Calin, the Secretary-General.

By Ian Marshall

There is no second option, there is no scope for postponement; there is total commitment to staging the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
If ever the world needed an Olympic Games, a major global event that brings humanity together in an atmosphere of competition and co-operation, it is now. Tokyo 2020 has a special meaning, more than ever, the celebrated global gathering extends beyond the boundaries of sport.

“I’m very happy that Thomas Bach confirmed that the Games will take place as planned”, Thomas Weikert

Undeniably, meeting all the extra demands caused by the pandemic presents unprecedented challenges but that is the ethos of an Olympic Games, “Citius, Altius, Fortius”; by staging four major ITTF international events in China and Macao in November 2020, the ITTF World Cups, the ITTF Finals and the first ever WTT event, from all concerned the example was set. It was “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
Now the task is to build on that successful experience, not only for the good of table tennis, also for the good of sport; to reinforce guidelines that if needed can benefit other international federations (IF), especially those who have not staged global events in the past year. Presently, the ITTF is focusing on Covid-19 protocols 3.0.

“Every IF making international events is indirectly helping the IOC and the Japanese society to believe the Games will go ahead. The best IFs can do is organize competitions instead of talking”, Thomas Bach
Significantly, in Japan, there is a large majority supporting the staging of the Games. Morinari Watanabe, President of the International Gymnastics Federation, emphasized that many media reports were misleading; he stressed that in the country there is a 65 per cent majority in favour of the Games being held.

The task is to put procedures in place that will provide an environment in which everyone in whatever capacity feels safe and secure. Flexibility is very much a key element, especially regarding qualification, a fact stressed by Francesco Ricci-Bitti, President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

Importantly, the IOC recommends a “Tool Box” accessible to all international federations which comprises comprehensive information regarding such items as vaccination, necessary precautions and travel guarantees.
Equally, it is more than ever a time for consultation and liaison by working closing alongside the Organising Committee in Japan, National Health Authorities, the World Health Organisation, the International Paralympic Committee, ASOIF and most importantly the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ensure no limits regarding preventative medicines are transgressed.

Vaccination is high on the agenda, although not mandatory, an order of priority is to be established; high risk groups being the first on the schedule followed by an agreed order of preference. A recommendation that by vaccinating in May 2021, the maximum immunity for the Games will be assured, as explained by Dr Ugur Erdener, World Archery President and Chair of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission.

Equally, thanks to very close relations with the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games will go ahead following similar protocols.
There is a risk but there is always a risk of some form; the Games may be different in more respects than any previous, but no Games are the same.

A celebration awaits in Tokyo; the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

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