Olympics chief blunders in first appearance since arriving in Tokyo
The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made his first public appearance since arriving in Tokyo before the Olympics, but had to quickly correct himself after confusing his words.
Thomas Bach referred to the “Chinese people” rather than the “Japanese people” in his remarks, correcting himself immediately.
He arrived in Tokyo last week and spent his first three days in isolation at the five-star International Olympic Committee hotel in central Tokyo.
The games start in just 10 days, with organizers deciding that there will be no spectators allowed at nearly all venues, with Tokyo under a fourth state of emergency for the duration.
Its main impact is to push bars and restaurants to close earlier and to stop selling alcohol, a move aimed at reducing traffic on crowded trains.
Bach, speaking at the organizing committee headquarters on Tuesday, said: “You have succeeded in making Tokyo the city best prepared for the Olympics.”
Addressing Organizing Committee Chair Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto, he added, “This is even more remarkable in the difficult circumstances we all face.”
“Our common goal is safe and secure games for everyone; for the athletes, for all the delegations, and above all also for the Chinese people – the Japanese people, ”Bach said, quickly reclaiming his mistake.
Bach’s comments in the briefing were interpreted from English to Japanese, but the slip was not included in the interpretations. Still, Japanese media quickly reported it and there were backlashes on social media.
Bach ended his speech with a Japanese phrase: “Gambari mashou”, which translates to “Let’s do our best”.
Bach’s visit on Tuesday coincided with the official opening of the Tokyo Bay Olympic Village.
He is due to travel to Hiroshima on Friday with the aim of tying the Olympics to the city’s efforts to promote world peace.
IOC Vice-President John Coates will visit Nagasaki on the same day.
Japanese newspaper Kyodo reported that a group in Hiroshima opposed Bach’s visit.
A small group of protesters gathered outside Bach’s hotel on Saturday carrying signs saying he was not welcome.
Organizers have come under fire for pushing the Olympics forward during the coronavirus pandemic amid polls that show – depending on how the question is framed – 50 to 80 percent of the public oppose hosting the Games Olympic.
New cases of the virus in Tokyo were reported at 830, up from 593 a week ago. This is the 24th day in a row that cases were higher than the previous seven days.
The Japanese prime minister’s office said on Tuesday that 18.5% of Japanese are fully immunized.