TOKYO, May 9 (Xinhua) — World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said here on Sunday that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be held as “a beacon of hope and optimism” despite the worsening COVID-19 situation in the host nation.
“I think that it will also act as a beacon of hope and optimism in a world that I hope is soon moving back to some type of normalcy,” said the Brit, who arrived here five days ago for his second visit to Tokyo in six months.
“I think that these Games will leave a strong lasting legacy, not just for Japan but at a time when the world is coming to terms with some pretty difficult and harrowing months.”
Coe, who was the president of the London 2012 organizing committee, held a press conference at the Olympic Stadium in central Tokyo before watching the athletics test event at the venue.
The event, the last track and field event that will be held at the Olympic Stadium before the Games open on July 23, was held without spectators and featured 420 athletes. And only nine of them were traveling from overseas, including American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won the men’s 100 meters gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and the silver in the same event in Rio five years ago.
The Japanese government on Friday extended the state of emergency over COVID-19 in Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto until the end of May while expanding it to Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures.
The country’s third state of emergency since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic covers an area accounting for one-third of its population and more than 40 percent of the country.
But Coe was optimistic about the success of the games, saying that athletes are all looking forward to competing in Tokyo.
“I speak to the athletes all the time,” Coe told reporters. “I am consistently bowled over by the way they are dealing with, by the day, some of these restrictions and some of these added challenges.
“Is it perfect? No. Are they accepting of that situation? Yes. The vast majority of athletes I speak to wanting to get into the Games are understanding that it will not be the type of games they’ve experienced before.
“The athletes have demonstrated the most extraordinary resilience and fortitude over the last year or so. This is an also understanding that this is not under any circumstances business as usual.
“I think everybody is in the same boat here.”
Coe has met Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike in the past week and each side pledged to hold a safe and secure games.
“Why should the Olympics take place? Because they are the premier sporting event in a four-year cycle. They are very much more than a sporting event.
“I can’t think of any other activity which has the ability to pull communities in amid differences of ethnicity, belief or geography, bounding together in the way that a major sporting event can. I’ve seen it the whole of my life and I will go to my grave knowing that that has a profound impact.” Enditem