New Tokyo 2020 sports director Mikako Kotani said she will ensure the Games go ahead safely ©Getty Images

The new Tokyo 2020 sports director Mikako Kotani has said she is looking to educate herself on COVID-19 to ensure the Olympics and Paralympics can be held safely.

Both Games were pushed back by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the Olympics now due to open on July 23.

On her first day in her new role, Kotani told reporters that she aims to deal with "one thing at a time". 

But she wants to also know as much about the virus as possible when making decisions, according to Kyodo News.

"I want to start by gathering information so that we can implement the most effective countermeasures at the Tokyo Games," said Kotani.

"I want to do my best to prepare for an event that will not only be safe and secure, but one that will be fun (for athletes) coming together in Japan to compete."

The former artistic swimmer, who won two bronze medals at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, took over the sports director role from Olympic hammer throw gold medallist Koji Murofushi.

Kotani's role will involve her acting as a voice for athletes in the management of the Games.

She will coordinate these views with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee as well as national and international sports federations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to 2021 ©Getty Images
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to 2021 ©Getty Images

The World Olympians Association (WOA) welcomed the appointment of Kotani who is an Executive Committee member at the organisation.

"We are immensely proud of Mikako and have no doubt that she will prove to be an exceptional appointment by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee," said WOA President Joël Bouzou.

"Mikako is an invaluable asset to WOA, tirelessly supporting and advocating for Olympians in Japan, across Asia and around the world, and we wish her every success in her new role.

"She is the first sitting member of the WOA Executive Committee to hold the position of sports director of an Olympic Games."

Kotani has been a member of the WOA's Executive Committee since 2016, and has a long history with administrative positions in sport.

She has also worked with the Olympians Association of Japan and was previously part of the IOC Athletes' Commission, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia's Athletes' Committee.