International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is expected to arrive in Japan 11 days before this year’s delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games open, while organisers are reportedly set to further cut the number of overseas officials, staff and journalists in attendance.
According to Kyodo News, IOC vice-president John Coates confirmed Bach will land in the host nation on July 12 ahead of the Opening Ceremony which is due to take place on July 23.
Bach had originally hoped to visit Japan this month and was set to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay when it passed through Hiroshima, as well as meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
But the trip was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic as Japan battles rising case numbers.
Kyodo News reports that Coates, head of the IOC Coordination Commission, wrote a letter to Olympic stakeholders, revealing that he intends to be in Tokyo from June before being joined by Bach in July.
The letter is also said to have included comments from Bach, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to re-emphasise their mission to stage a safe Games.
Coates reportedly praised Tokyo 2020 organisers for implementing COVID-19 countermeasures including "screening testing, mask-wearing, personal hygiene and physical distancing".
"They also draw upon the experience of hundreds of sports events that have taken place safely across the world over the past year, with minimal risk to participants and also, importantly, the local population," said Coates.
Coates’ letter was reportedly sent after the first day of the final Coordination Commission meeting for the Games.
Speaking at the virtual meeting, Bach claimed more than 80 per cent of people inside the Tokyo 2020 Athletes' Village will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in a bid to appease the local population, with Japanese opposition to the Games on the rise amid coronavirus fears.
An online petition in favour of cancellation attracted 350,000 signatures in just nine days earlier this month, but the IOC and Tokyo 2020 are pushing ahead towards the Opening Ceremony.
Overseas fans have been barred from attending the Games which could go ahead behind closed doors, with organisers due to make a decision on Japanese spectators next month.
The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is also reportedly looking to reduce the number of officials and workers at Tokyo 2020.
According to Kyodo News, organisers will limit the number to 78,000 - a reduction of more than half of the initial figure which had been expected to travel to the Games before the event was postponed last year.
Citing "sources close to the matter", the Japanese news agency reports that the amount of International Federation (IF) officials, staff and journalists could be further reduced.
It is also reported that organisers have been asking National Olympic Committees and IFs to cut the number of people that were due to travel to Japan.
"The [final] number may be really small if we consider [narrowing it down] to just individuals without whom the Olympics cannot take place," said Toshirō Mutō, chief executive of Tokyo 2020.
Nine Japanese prefectures, including Tokyo, are under a state of emergency until May 31 after a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Yesterday, Tokyo recorded 766 new infections and the seven-day daily average of fresh cases has dipped from 874 to 727.9 compared to the previous week.
Osaka became the first prefecture in Japan to exceed 2,000 fatalities after its death toll increased by 33 to 2,014.