Decision to postpone Olympics was hard but showed determination: Envoy
Hazal Özcan – ANKARA
As Tokyo is getting ready to host the 2020 Olympics this week, Japan’s ambassador to Ankara has said that the decision to postpone the games was not easy but demonstrated a “strong determination” to provide safety to the athletes and officials.
Japanese Ambassador to Turkey Suzuki Kazuhiro told Hürriyet Daily News in an interview that authorities in his country were “preparing day and night” and taking strict measures while taking into account suggestions from health experts.
The envoy said that after the novel coronavirus started to spread rapidly last year in March, Japan decided to postpone the games, following a phone call between former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
“The decision was, of course, not easy as the postponement would be unprecedented in modern Olympic history, but I understand that it is an expression of strong determination to have a safe and secure competition,” he said.
Underlining that Japanese authorities are giving “high priority to making the events safe and secure, Suzuki said that matches in Tokyo would be held without spectators, along with many other regions hosting the events.
“The Japanese Government requests all participants, including athletes and officials from every country, to understand and abide by the infection control rules. I trust that these views of the Japanese government are fully understood,” he said.
Suzuki expressed sorrow that the Olympics would be held without spectators but said that it would be possible to watch the matches simultaneously via live broadcasts.
“I invite the Turkish people to follow the competitions of Turkish athletes in this way and share their excitement,” Suzuki said.
Elaborating on the measures Japan has taken to ensure safety during the games, Suzuki said that some of the measures include athletes receiving tests at the airport upon entering Japan, every day during their stay and getting tested twice within 96 hours before arriving in Japan.
“These rules have been established by the All Partners Task Force, the members of which include the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Government of Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Municipality and the World Health Organization (WHO),” he said.
‘Athletes continued training while dreaming of participating in Olympics’
When asked about the importance of holding the Olympics during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Suzuki said that “even as the world was facing the great challenges posed by the coronavirus, athletes were training every day dreaming of participating in the Olympics.”
“In Japan, everyone knows the saying that demonstrates the spirit of the Olympics: ‘At the Olympics, participation is more significant than winning.’ Of course, athletes cannot participate if the Olympics were not being held,” he said.
“I think it is very important to realize the dreams of the athletes who have worked so hard to come to Tokyo this summer and to develop the spirit of friendship, solidarity, fair play and mutual understanding through participation in the Olympics,” he added.
As this year’s Olympic Games are coinciding with the 10th year of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Suzuki expressed his hope that Japan would have the opportunity to show the world their “recovery and reconstruction.”
Turkey’s relations with Japan
Regarding the state of relations between Ankara and Tokyo, the ambassador said that the “most distinctive feature of relations is that for a long time, both peoples have had a very positive image towards each other.”
While conveying that the Ertuğrul Frigrate accident is a “symbol of friendly relations” between two countries, Suzuki also said that during the Great East Japan Earthquake, Turkish search and rescue teams landed a supporting hand to the disaster area.
“Relations between Japan and Turkey are very colorful with such kind of heartwarming stories between the peoples and cases of mutual aid,” he said.