Olympics 2021: President Sparks Outrage in Tokyo By Referring to Japanese People as “Chinese”

Olympics President Sparks Outrage in Tokyo By Referring to Japanese People as “Chinese”

The gaffe has renewed criticism from those who say the IOC and its chief have disrespected the people of the host country, while putting profits ahead of safety.

The Tokyo Olympics, already unpopular in Japan, have come under new criticism.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on referred to the Japanese people as “Chinese” during his first public comments after landing in Japan and completing quarantine.

Bach’s speech was intended as a talk for the beleaguered Tokyo Games, but instead it became yet another source of controversy, with critics saying the gaff was indicative of the repeated lack of respect for the people of Japan.

The IOC president was attempting to reassure the host country, which is currently under a state of emergency amid rising delta variant COVID-19 cases, that the Olympics would not become a super-spreader event.



Ariake Urban Sport Park, Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Our common target is safe and secure games,” Bach said. “For the athletes, for the delegations and most importantly also for the Chinese people,” quickly attempting to correct himself by adding, “Japanese people.”

The live interpreters at the press conference didn’t translate the mistake from English to Japanese but Japanese media outlets reported on the gaff. It went viral on social media, further compounding the Games’ unpopularity in the country.

Recent polling has showed that a sizable majority of the Japanese public want the Tokyo Olympics canceled.

Bach’s gaff follows a string of statements from IOC officials that have incensed the Japanese public.

During the run-up to the Games, at a moment when Japan’s medical system was under strain, IOC member Dick Pound told the press the Tokyo Olympics would take place “barring Armageddon,” and regardless of whether Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga asks that they be canceled.

Bach had caused an outcry in late May by saying there was a “need to make sacrifices.” The IOC later tried to roll back his comments by insisting he wasn’t referring to the lives of Japanese people.

Last week, Japan’s Olympic organizers decided to ban all spectators from Tokyo Olympic venues, except for at some smaller events outside the Japanese capital.

Tokyo was placed under state of emergency on Monday, which will extend until August 22.

The decisions have rendered the Tokyo Games made-for-TV event, with public gatherings and anything like a festival atmosphere discouraged throughout Japan.

Japanese people have been asked to bear all of the risks of staging the Olympics within an island nation, while the IOC and foreign broadcasters stand to reap the profits.

Officials estimate that 15,400 athletes will participate in the Olympics and Paralympics, which take place in July and August. Including coaches, family members, media, IOC staff and sponsors, the two events are expected to bring about 93,000 people from over 200 countries into Japan.

When Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2013, organizers forecast that spectators, mostly foreign tourists, would spend $2 billion on tickets, hotels, meals and merchandise.

They expected that the beneficial exposure and word-of-mouth of the foreign influx and attention, what local economists called “legacy effects,” would generate  additional $10 billion in inbound consumer spending over the coming decade.

Under current restrictions, all of that anticipated economic benefit for Japan is gone.

Meanwhile, Japan and its taxpayers have spent more than $26 billion on hosting the Games, including additional cost overruns due to last year’s postponement.

The IOC stands to profit from forging ahead with the troubled Tokyo Olympics. The organization generates almost 75 percent of its income from selling broadcast rights, and NBCUniversal, the U.S. rights holder, is the single largest source of that revenue, representing about 40 percent of the total. NBC paid the IOC $4.4 billion for the four Olympics spanning 2014 to 2020, and another $7.75 billion for the next six games running 2022 through 2032. Discovery Inc., which holds the European rights, is another major benefactor.

During an investor conference in mid-June, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell boasted that the pandemic-tainted Tokyo Games were shaping up to be the “most profitable Olympics in the history of the company.”