President of the IOC Thomas Bach arrives in Tokyo, addresses Japanese people as Chinese during a pep talk in Tokyo

While speaking to his Japanese hosts, Bach stumbled over his words, referring to the “Chinese people” rather than the “Japanese people.”

IOC President Thomas Bach made his first public appearance since arriving in Tokyo last week, with the pandemic-affected Olympics set to begin in just ten days. Bach spent his first three days in isolation at the five-star Hotel in central Tokyo of the International Olympic Committee, and for the first 14 days, his movement in Tokyo is limited – just like almost everyone at the Olympics.

With the beleaguered games set to go on without crowds in practically all venues, his first destination was the headquarters of the organising committee to deliver a pep talk.


Last week, organisers and the IOC agreed to ban fans from all but a few outlying venues, a move prompted by the Japanese government’s declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo due to an increase in coronavirus cases. The state of emergency was declared on Monday and will last until August 22.

The state of emergency will remain in place throughout the Olympics, which begin on July 23 and end on August 8. Its major effect is to encourage bars, clubs, and restaurants to close early and stop serving alcohol to reduce crowding on trains.

“You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared a city for the Olympic Games,“ Bach said in his opening remarks to organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto. ”This is even more remarkable under the difficult circumstances we all have to face.”

While speaking to his Japanese hosts, Bach stumbled over his words, referring to the “Chinese people” rather than the “Japanese people.”

“Our common target is safe and secure games for everybody; for the athletes, for all the delegations, and most importantly also for the Chinese people — Japanese people,“ Bach said, catching his mistake quickly.

The slip was not included in the interpretations of Bach’s statements in the briefing, which were translated from English to Japanese. Despite this, much of the Japanese media swiftly published it, and there was social media outrage.

Bach will travel to Hiroshima, Japan, on Friday in an attempt to link the Olympics to the city’s efforts to promote international peace. On the same day, IOC Vice President John Coates will travel to Nagasaki.