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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

IOC president Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo this week as a cheerleader for next year's Olympics, saying he's "very confident" the Games will open with fans on July 23, 2021.

What he's saying: Bach issued a gentle plea to all competitors to get vaccinated if and when a vaccine is available, and added that a "reasonable number" of fans should be able to attend with or without a vaccine.

  • Worth noting: Team USA's chief medical officer, Jonathan Finnoff, doesn't think there will be enough time to vaccinate everyone, even if vaccines continue to progress. "You have to think about it as a non-vaccinated Games," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The backdrop: Japan has controlled the coronavirus relatively well, with about 1,900 deaths in a country of roughly 125 million. And in recent weeks, sporting events have successfully been held with fans in attendance.

  • A test gymnastics event was staged in Tokyo last week involving athletes from Japan, China, Russia, and the U.S. About 2,000 fans attended, and outside of competition and training, gymnasts were confined to their hotel rooms.
  • Baseball games have been held in front of thousands of fans, who are required to wear masks and banned from cheering or shouting.

Go deeper

Updated Jul 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Guinea reverses decision to withdraw from Tokyo Olympics

Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Guinea’s sports ministry reversed its decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics Thursday and will send a delegation after all, the AP reports.

Why it matters: The reversal comes just a day after the country announced it had canceled its participation in this year’s Games as a precaution to the recent surge of COVID-19 variants.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 23, 2021 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Olympics greet visitors with app chaos

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the days leading up to the Tokyo Games, journalists had two big concerns — whether the Olympics would really happen, and if they would ever get access to all the mobile apps and websites required to get into the country and do their jobs.

Why it matters: Battling COVID-19 is crucial, of course. But most of the challenges faced by media and other Olympics participants were technical obstacles that had little to do with preventing the virus' spread.

Updated Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Japan's Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron, kicking off Tokyo Games

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

After a year-long delay, the Olympics finally got underway Friday as tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is competing for Japan, lit the cauldron, formally kicking off the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: Friday's opening ceremony looked, like many things over the last year, different than normal — multicolored seats replaced cheering fans, masks were a central part of the athletes' uniforms and a subdued, somber tone marked the occasion.