politico – Japanese PM says world needs safe Olympics

“The world is facing great difficulties,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told members of the International Olympic Committee during a closed-door meeting at a five-star hotel in Tokyo, adding that “we can bring success to the realization of the Games “.

“Such a fact must be communicated from Japan to the rest of the world,” Suga said through an interpreter. “We will protect the health and safety of the Japanese public. “

He acknowledged that Japan’s path through the pandemic to the Olympics was “sometimes backwards.”

“But the vaccination has started and after a long tunnel an exit is now in sight,” Suga said.

The prime minister’s office said on Monday that more than 21 percent of Japan’s 126 million people had been vaccinated.

Health experts in Japan have questioned whether to allow so many international visitors for the games, which end on August 8. There will be no local or foreign fans at the events. The Paralympic Games will follow at the end of August.

Congratulating vaccine manufacturers for working on a dedicated Olympic deployment, IOC President Thomas Bach recognized Pfizer BioNTech for “a truly essential contribution”.

This cooperation means that “85% of the residents of the Olympic Village and 100% of the IOC members present here have been either vaccinated or immunized” against COVID-19, Bach said.

About 85 of the 101 IOC members were in the room for their first in-person meeting since January 2020. Their previous two meetings, notably to re-elect Bach in March, were held at a distance.

The IOC declined to say whether unvaccinated members had been asked to stay away. A member absent from the meeting, Ryu Seung-min from South Korea, tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving by plane on Saturday.

Bach has been greeted with anti-Olympic chants from visiting protesters since arriving two weeks ago, including at a state welcome party with Suga on Sunday.

The IOC chief congratulated his hosts on Tuesday, saying that “billions of people around the world will watch and enjoy the Olympic Games”.

“They will admire the Japanese people for what they have accomplished,” said Bach, insisting that the games would send a message of peace, solidarity and resilience.

Canceling the Olympics was never an option, Bach said, because “the IOC never abandons the athletes.”

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