Bach praises Slovenia as great sporting nation
"Slovenia is a small country in terms of size and population, but it is nevertheless a true giant in international sport competition, a phenomena in winter and summer sports, in individual and team sports," Bach said as he met almost 50 of Slovenia's 116 candidates for the Olympics at the Tacen Kayak Canoe Centre.
He reiterated that the IOC would do all in its power for the Tokyo Olympic Games, rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic from 2020 to 2021, to be held next year, with an Olympic village and venues for competition to be ready.
He said that together with the organising committee and the Japanese government, the IOC was working on various scenarios in terms of the presence of spectators, the conditions for preparations before and during the Games as well as competitions.
Earlier in the day Bach met Prime Minister Janez Janša, saying the talks were successful. He was also scheduled to meet President Borut Pahor, but the meeting was cancelled due to Pahor's working visit to Paris.
After talks with Janša, which were also attended by Sports Minister Simona Kustec and State Secretary Marjan Dolinšek, Bach said it was obvious that the prime minister and his government were aware of the important role that sport plays in society, especially during the health crisis.
The former German athlete said Janša saw sport as a means to exit the current crisis. "The government has supported sport not only on the national level but also internationally. It is important that when Slovenia takes over the EU's presidency it also takes initiative to protect the European sports model," he said.
Elaborating on this, Bach said that sport must remain a part of civil society, voluntary and based on solidarity, and not be turned into a business. The state should continue or increase support to national sports alliances, clubs and national Olympic committees, he said.
"We live in times of great insecurity. After all, the Olympics next year will be a great light of hope, optimism, solidarity and unity," he said.
The IOC head confirmed he had not met or talked to the new Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, yet, but the latter had announced he would continue the policies of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, who was a great supporter of the Tokyo Olympics.
"The new Japanese prime minister has pledged to make the games successful, thus continuing Abe's work," he said, noting this had been the message he received from Suga the day after his election.
Bach arrived in Slovenia to meet the athletes and sports officials, attend a fund raiser and visit the grave of recently deceased sports official Janez Kocijančič, who served as the Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) president in 1991-2014 and headed the European Olympic Committees (EOC) from 2017 until his death on 1 June.
On this occasion, the EOC held its memorial session for Kocijančič in Ljubljana. "When Kocijančič died, Bach could not come to Slovenia due to travel restrictions," explained OKS secretary general Blaž Perko.
As part of the fundraiser hosted by the OKS, EUR 120,000 was collected today for the Miro Cerar Foundation, which helps athletes from economically deprived families. Bach contributed US$50,000 on behalf of the IOC.