Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, has praised athletes for giving “soul” to the Games and admitted that he feared for the event after almost all spectators were banned.
However, his claims that the Tokyo Games “far exceeded my personal expectations” and were a huge success have received widespread criticism on Japanese social media.
Two days before the end of the Olympic Games on Sunday, Bach took on an optimistic tone. “After accepting the decision by the Japanese authorities not to have spectators, I must admit that we were concerned that these Olympics could become soulless Olympics,” he said.
“Fortunately, what we saw here is very different. Because the athletes gave these Olympic Games a great Olympic soul. After what I experienced in the Olympic village and on the competition venues, I have to say that the atmosphere was more intense than ever before.
“Tokyo is the best-prepared Olympic city of all time. This has been proven to be true, ”he said, giving reasons such as the“ effectiveness ”of the anti-Covid-19 measures that were carried out before and during the 17-day games, which mostly take place behind closed doors.
On Thursday, the confirmed daily Covid-19 cases in Tokyo hit another record high of 5,042. However, Bach insisted that the rise in the number of cases was unrelated to the Olympics, pointing out that the 11,000 athletes in a bubble were away from the population while everyone else involved in the Games was regularly with very low rates of tested positives.
“Our mission was and is to protect the athletes and not to have any transfer from athletes to the population,” said Bach. “All the figures confirm that this concept worked. This is supported by the WHO and experts around the world. We have full confidence in the Japanese authorities and that they will approach them correctly. “
Bach said he was impressed and surprised by the level of competition given the challenges of the pandemic. “What we can see now is that these games come at a time when the world longed for a symbol of hope.”
However, Bach’s speech soon became the hottest article on Twitter in Japan, with the response generally being hostile. “I’m angry,” wrote one user. “There was not a word of hope for people who risk their lives working in the medical field to support the Olympic Games.”