Thomas Bach said a safe Tokyo 2020 Olympics was the organisation's top priority ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has said the organisation is being guided by "science and facts" as it attempts to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bach, re-elected for a four-year term as IOC President at the 137th IOC Session today, opened the virtual meeting by highlighting the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 were forced to reschedule the Games last year, with the Olympics now due to begin on July 23 and run to August 8.

Concerns have continued to be raised over hosting the Games this year.

Organisers published the first draft of playbooks last month, with updates expected in the countdown to the Games with countermeasures outlined for athletes and other participants to explain how the event can take place.

Bach said the IOC and Tokyo 2020 are taking a science based approach to developing countermeasures.

"Our shared top priority was, is and remains safe and secure Olympic Games for everyone, the athletes and all participants, as well as our gracious hosts the Japanese people to whom we owe already now all our respect," Bach said.

"The IOC is standing shoulder to shoulder at the side of our Japanese partners and friends, without any kind of reservation.

"Tokyo remains the best prepared Olympic city ever and at this moment, we have no reason to doubt that the Opening Ceremony will take place on July 23.

"This is why our thanks and gratitude go in particular to the Government of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Organising Committee, the athletes, the International Federations, the NOCs, all our TOP partners and rights-holding broadcasters for their steadfast commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

"Thanks to this great determination and support of all our stakeholders, the question is not "whether", the question is "how" these Olympic Games will take place.

"Therefore, our efforts are focused on how to address COVID-19.

"In this context, we are together with our Japanese partners and friends developing comprehensive and science-based playbooks of COVID-19-countermeasures.

"The measures range from immigration requirements to testing, social distancing, contact tracing, vaccinations and many more.  

"The technical advice that we are getting from the scientific community, from the WHO (World Health Organisation), from health experts across the globe, is so essential.

"We must always be guided by science and facts.

"We will establish specific countermeasures that apply to all the different groups participating in the Olympic Games - the athletes, the entourage, the officials, the volunteers, the sponsors, the media, the spectators, and of course, the Japanese people.

“We will also consider how each of these groups will interact with one another and what specific measures are needed to guide those interactions in order to keep everyone safe."

IOC President Thomas Bach said the organisers are taking a science based approach to ensure a safe Games ©IOC
IOC President Thomas Bach said the organisers are taking a science based approach to ensure a safe Games ©IOC

Among the key details known to date is that athletes who return a positive coronavirus test "will not be able to compete", and they could be placed into isolation at a Government-approved facility away from the Tokyo 2020 venues.

Those who come into "close contact" with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 are set to only be cleared to compete once they themselves have registered a negative test.

They will be told to get tested immediately after being notified by a health reporting app or if called to do so by their COVID-19 liaison officer.

insidethegames understands measures are being considered to prevent false positives stopping an athlete taking part in their event, including the possibility of only barring those with a defined number of positives from competing.

The second version of the playbooks are expected to provide more details on a sport-by-sport basis.

Bach also highlighted the staging of major sporting events in recent months as evidence that the Games can take place safely without posing a risk of spreading COVID-19.

"The many World Championships that have been held during these recent weeks and months are proof that sport can be organised safely and successfully, even under present restrictions," Bach said.

“Here our thanks go to the International Federations who have organised over 270 major sporting events, meaning World Championships or World Cups, since September 2020.

"Cumulatively, these events have involved over 30,000 athletes.

"All of them had rigorous health and safety protocols in place, including extensive testing regimes, which far exceeded 200,000 tests.

"Not a single of these events turned into a virus-spreader.

"We have clear and obvious proof that very big international sport events with a large number of international participants can be organised while safeguarding the health of everyone.

"This fact is even more significant because none of these events could benefit from vaccinations.

"In contrast, we are now in the very fortunate position that several vaccines are already widely in use.

"A considerable number of Olympic athletes is even already or about to be vaccinated in time for Tokyo.

"This situation will continue to improve greatly the closer we get to the Opening Ceremony."

Tokyo 2020 is expected to provide an update tomorrow on preparations for the Games, with Japanese reports having suggested the overseas fans may not be able to attend the Games.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto has reportedly suggested the number of times athletes are tested for coronavirus could be increased.

Plans are in place for competitors to be tested once every four days during their time at this year’s rescheduled Olympic Games.