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Tokyo 2020 must be simple and safe, says IOC's Coates

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Senior Olympic official John Coates has reiterated that Tokyo must stage a simplified Summer Games next year with the health and safety of athletes the most important consideration in the planning.

FILE PHOTO: International Olympic Committee member John Coates attends the International Olympic Committee (IOC) 135th Session in Lausanne, Switzerland, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Australian Coates heads up the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Games, which have been postponed until 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The good news is that all 42 Games’ venues ... have been resecured. The competition schedule is the same,” the IOC Vice President wrote in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Friday, a day after the one-year countdown to the opening ceremony.

“But we must reduce the cost impact of postponement as well as simplify the Games to ensure they can be organised efficiently, safely and sustainably, in this new context.

“With one year to go, there is no clear picture of what shape the simplified Games will take. The situation with COVID-19, both domestically and internationally, is constantly changing.”

Coates wrote that putting in place counter-measures against COVID-19 would be no easy task but welcomed the top level commitment from the Japanese government, Tokyo regional government and Games organising committee to get it done.

“The IOC and our Japanese partners ... are doing everything in their power to ensure that not only will the Games go ahead next year, but the athletes remain first and foremost in all our planning,” he added.

“Yes, we want the athletes of the world to have their Olympic moment of competition, just as they would have dreamt. But critically, they must experience that moment in an environment where their health and safety ... is assured.”

Coates is also President of the Australian Olympic Committee and added that the reaction of his country’s athletes to the postponement had been “inspirational”.

“All athletes with a Tokyo dream in their hearts have had to recalibrate their plans for a Games ... they have demonstrated remarkable resilience in making that adjustment,” he wrote.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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