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Japan's Suga and IOC's Bach agree Olympics to take place in summer

Games to go ahead as planned despite COVID-19 pandemic

International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga meet in Tokyo on Nov. 16. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday agreed with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach that the Tokyo Olympics will be held as planned next summer, despite the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

Suga and Bach, who is on a four-day visit to Tokyo that began Sunday, discussed preparations taking place for the Summer Games as the number of novel coronavirus cases continue to rise across the world. After the meeting, Bach told reporters he is confident spectators will be able to enter games venues to watch the sporting action, promising that the IOC will step up efforts to make sure athletes will be vaccinated "if by then a vaccine is available."

"In this meeting, we were totally aligned in the full determination and confidence to make the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Paralympic Games a great success next summer here in Tokyo," he said. "Together we can make these Olympics Games and the Olympic flame the light at the end of the tunnel." This is Bach's first trip to Japan since the decision in March to postpone the Olympics and Paralympics by one year due to the outbreak of the virus.

Compared with many other countries, Japan has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. It has, however, seen record daily infections in recent days as the temperature has dropped and after it began easing restrictions on people's movement and border controls.

Under such circumstances, Suga renewed his pledge in the presence of Bach that he is "determined" to host the Summer Games as "proof that humanity has defeated the virus."

"I explained that we are making various considerations on the premise of having spectators and agreed with President Bach to work closely together toward realizing a safe and secure Olympics," Suga told reporters after the meeting.

The meeting, also the first with Suga since he became prime minister in mid-September, took place as the Japanese government has accelerated the process of formulating measures against the virus.

Later Monday, Bach will meet former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was the country's leader when Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Games but was forced to step down for health reasons. Bach is expected to give him an award for his contributions to the hosting of the games.

He will also meet Tokyo Games Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Monday. Bach and Mori will hold a joint press conference later in the day.

On Tuesday, Bach is scheduled to visit the athletes' village and the National Stadium. Completed in November 2019, the stadium will be used for athletics and soccer during the Tokyo Games as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

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