IOC President Says Canceling Olympics Wasn't an Option, Group 'Never Abandons the Athletes'

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said canceling the Tokyo Olympics was not an option because "the IOC never abandons the athletes," the Associated Press reported.

The Olympics' opening ceremony begins Friday but events for softball and women's soccer take place Wednesday. The decision to hold the games amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been opposed by much of the public but Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told IOC officials Tuesday that "we can bring success to the delivery of the games."

Bach said "billions of people around the world will follow and appreciate the Olympic Games."

"They will admire the Japanese people for what they achieved," he added.

Bach noted that 85 percent of Olympic Village residents and 100 percent of IOC members in Japan are vaccinated or immune to COVID-19. Suga's office reported Monday that more than 21 percent of Japan's citizens are vaccinated against the virus out of 126 million people.

Olympic Rings on Display in Tokyo
IOC President Thomas Bach said it was not an option to cancel the Olympics and that the organization "never abandons the athletes." In this photo, the Olympic rings are seen lit outside the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on July 20, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The world needs to see that Japan can stage a safe Olympics, Suga told sports officials Tuesday ahead of the Tokyo Games.

Tens of thousands of athletes, officials, games staff and media are arriving in Japan amid a local state of emergency and widespread opposition from the general public.

The Olympics already has been postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The world is faced with great difficulties," Suga told IOC members in a closed-door meeting at a five-star hotel in Tokyo.

"Such fact has to be communicated from Japan to the rest of the world," Suga said about demonstrating Japan can deliver the Games successfully through an interpreter. "We will protect the health and security of the Japanese public."

He acknowledged Japan's path through the pandemic toward the Olympics had gone "sometimes backward at times."

"But vaccination has started and after a long tunnel an exit is now in our sight," Suga said.

Health experts in Japan have questioned allowing so many international visitors for the games, which end on August 8. There will be no local or foreign fans at events. The Paralympics will follow in late August.

Praising vaccine manufacturers for working on a dedicated Olympic rollout, Bach singled out Pfizer BioNTech for "a truly essential contribution."

About 75 of the 101 IOC members were in the room for their first in-person meeting since January 2020. Their previous two meetings, including to re-elect Bach in March, were held remotely.

The IOC declined to say if any members who are not vaccinated had been asked to stay away. One member missing the meeting, Ryu Seung-min of South Korea, tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on a flight Saturday.

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

The IOC leader praised his hosts Tuesday.

Bach insisted the games will send a message of peace, solidarity and resilience.

Staging the games will also secure more than $3 billion in revenue from broadcasters worldwide. It helps fund the Switzerland-based IOC, which shares hundreds of millions of dollars among the 206 national teams and also with governing bodies of Olympic sports.

Bach said the IOC is contributing $1.7 billion to Tokyo organizers of the Olympics and the Paralympics.

IOC decisions taken Tuesday, rubber-stamping proposals sent from the Bach-chaired executive board:

—The sport of ski mountaineering was added to the program for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo. It involves skiing and hiking up and down mountain terrain. Five medal events should be created in sprint and individual races for men and women, and a mixed gender relay.

—The Olympic motto "Faster Higher Stronger" was updated to include the word "Together." The formal Latin motto will now be "Citius, Altius, Fortius—Communis."

—The IOC formally recognized the governing bodies of six sports: lacrosse, cheerleading, kickboxing, muay Thai, sambo and ice stock sport.

—Spending by the IOC was $55 million more than its revenue in 2020, when most income from the postponed Tokyo Olympics could not be declared. A "strong, solid" financial position was reported with the IOC's fund balances—of assets exceeding liabilities—at almost $2.5 billion.