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IOC’s Bach slips up and refers to Japanese as ‘Chinese’

Bach’s visit on Tuesday coincided with the official opening of the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay.

SNS | Tokyo |

 IOC President Thomas Bach appeared in public on Tuesday for the first time since arriving in Tokyo last week and with the pandemic-postponed Olympics opening in just 10 days.

Bach spent his first three days in isolation at the International Olympic Committee’s five-star hotel in central Tokyo, and his movements are limited — like almost everyone entering for the Olympics — for the first 14 days.

His first stop was the headquarters of the organizing committee to deliver a pep talk with the beleaguered games set to go ahead without fans in almost all venues.

Organizers and the IOC decided last week to ban fans from all but a handful of outlying venues, a move that came after the Japanese government instituted a state of emergency in Tokyo forced by rising coronavirus cases. The state of emergency went into force on Monday and runs through Aug. 22.

“You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared 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.”

Bach tripped over his words, referring to the “Chinese people” rather than “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.

Bach’s comments in the briefing were interpreted from English to Japanese, but the slip was not included in the interpretations. Still, the Japanese media quickly reported it and there was backlash on social media.

Bach ended his speech with a Japanese phrase: “Gambari mashou,” which translates as “Let’s do our best.”

Bach’s visit on Tuesday coincided with the official opening of the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay. Organizers did not offer an immediate count of how many athletes were on hand.

The state of emergency will be in effect throughout the entire duration of the Olympics, which open on July 23 and close on Aug. 8. Its main impact is to push bars and restaurants to close early and stop selling alcohol, a move aimed at cutting down circulation on crowded trains.

(With inputs from AP)