Bach calls for solidarity and says Tokyo 2020 can provide 'light at the end of the tunnel'

By Sports Desk July 23, 2021

Thomas Bach hammered home a message of solidarity and stated the Tokyo Olympics can bring a feeling of togetherness to provide "light at the end of the tunnel".

The IOC president was speaking at the culmination of an opening ceremony at Tokyo's Olympics stadium that mixed a wonderful display of Japanese culture with sombre reminders of the struggles the world has faced amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the global health crisis that led to the postponement of the Games a year ago and so very nearly curtailed the Olympics altogether.

Indeed, there has been a strong anti-Olympics stance among those in Japan and further afield, with many fearful that the arrival of throngs of media, officials and athletes from all over the world would lead to increased coronavirus infection numbers.

But, on a hot and humid night in the Japanese capital, Bach remained as defiant as ever that Tokyo 2020 will provide a moment of unity. 

"Today is a moment of hope, yes it is very different from all we imagined but let us cherish this moment, finally the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Olympic Refugee team living together under the athletes village," Bach said.

"This is the unifying message of sport. This gives us all hope for our journey together, we can only be here together because of our gracious hosts the Japanese people to who we would like to show all our appreciation and respect.

"What is true for the perseverance of the Japanese people is also true for you my fellow Olympic athletes, you had to face great challenges on your Olympic journey. Like all of us you were living through great uncertainty through the pandemic, you did not know when you could train again, if you could see your coach tomorrow, if your team-mates would be with you for the next competition, you did not even know if this competition would take place at all. 

"You struggled, you persevered, you never gave up. And today you are making your Olympic dream come true, you are true Olympic athletes. 

"You inspired us, the IOC and entire Olympic community, you inspired us to fight like you and for you to make this moment possible, this is why I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all the Olympic communities, federations, and rights and broadcasting holders for standing together with us. 

"Billions of people around the globe will be glued to their screens, sending you their enthusiasm, their energy and cheering you on. 

"The lesson we learned is we need more solidarity, more solidarity among societies and more solidarity within societies. Solidarity means much more than just respect on non-discrimination. 

"It means helping, sharing, caring. This is what we do in our Olympic community, we are standing in solidarity to make the Olympic Games happen, and to enable all of you dear athletes, and from all sports to take part in the Olympic Games. 

"This solidarity fuels our ambitions to make the world a better place through sport. Only through solidarity can we be here tonight. Without solidarity there is no peace."

He added: "This Olympics experience makes all of us very humble. We feel we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of an event that unites the world. United in all our diversity we become bigger than the sum of our parts. 

"We are always stronger together. This is why we are so grateful to you the athletes for expressing your commitment to these Olympic values of solidarity, inclusion and equality in your new Olympic oath. 

"We can go only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger if we stand together in solidarity. 

"This is why the IOC has amended the Olympics motto to our times – faster, higher, stronger, together. 

"This feeling of togetherness this is the light at the end of the dark tunnel, the pandemic forced us apart, to keep our distance from each other, to stay away even from our loved ones. This separation made this tunnel so dark. But today, wherever in the world you may be we are united in sharing this moment together."

Hashimoto Seiko, president of the Tokyo organising committee paid tribute to the health and essential workers across the globe during her own address.

"Following the challenges of the first ever postponement in Olympic history, the Tokyo 2020 Games finally open here today," she said.

"Hopes have been connected one by one by many hands, and we are now in a position to welcome this day.

"The whole world has faced immense challenges with COVID-19. I would like to express my gratitude and respect to all essential workers including those in medical services and others around the world who have shown such determination in overcoming these challenges."

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