International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says Tokyo 2020 is a “light at the end of a dark tunnel” and says the Games offer a “moment of hope”.
After a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which was attended only by a small portion of athletes and VIPs, including Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and US First Lady Jill Biden.
“Today is a moment of hope. Yes it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment, finally we are all here together,” said Bach, speaking shortly before the Olympic cauldron was lit by Japan's top tennis star, Naomi Osaka.
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“This is the unifying power of sport. This is the message of solidarity, of peace and of resilience. This gives all of us hope for our further journey together.
“We can only be here all together because of you, our gracious hosts, the Japanese people, to whom we would like to express all our appreciation and respect.”
Bach spoke about the importance of solidarity, equality and respect - citing again why the Olympic motto has changed to ‘faster, stronger, higher’: “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.
“The Olympic flame makes this light shine brighter for all of us.”
Bach also praised the resilience of athletes who dealt with the disappointment of the year-long delay, which threw training out of the window and for some, ended their Olympic dream.
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“You had to face great challenges on your Olympic journey, like all of us you were living with great uncertainty during the pandemic.
You did not know when you could train again, you did not know if you could see your coach tomorrow, you did not know if your teammates would be with you in 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 to fight like you and for you to make this moment possible.”
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