International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach confused his Japanese hosts with "Chinese people" during a press conference ahead of the upcoming pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Bach was appearing at a pep talk held at the headquarters of the Tokyo Olympics at the time of the incident and attempted to credit the host city by saying, "You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic Games. This is even more remarkable under the difficult circumstances we all have to face, "the Associated Press reports.
Bach then tripped over his words, inaccurately referring to the Japanese people as "Chinese people," referring to the other Asian country located nearly 2,000 miles away.
"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 as he quickly caught his mistake.
Bach's comments were interpreted from English to Japanese, but the slip was not included in the interpretation, though caught by members of the Japanese press, leading to a backlash on social media.
Bach concluded his speech with the Japanese phrase, "Ganbari mashu," which means "Let's do our best," amid a state of emergency in the Summer Games' host city.
Tokyo venues for the upcoming Olympic Games will be prohibited from hosting spectators.
Japanese Prime MinisterYoshide Sugaconfirmed last Thursday that the upcoming pandemic-delayed Summer Games would take place with a state of emergency in effect for the country's capital city, CNN reports.
The announcement was reportedly made after five Olympic and Japanese government groups responsible for the games met to discuss the event's status.
"A very heavy judgment was made," said Seiko Hashimotowith the Japanese Olympic Committee via CNN, adding that they have "no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way."
Last Wednesday (July 7), Kyodo News reported the Japanese government was expected to declare another COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo until August 22 -- which exceeds the duration of the upcoming Olympic Games -- amid a recent surge in infections, a source with knowledge of the plan confirmed.
The decision was expected to impact whether fans will be allowed to attend the event, which was already limited to 50% capacity (maximum 10,000 fans) as of last month.
A senior government official told Kyodo News that venues in Tokyo would likely remain empty, while some events will be held outside of the city, at the time of the report Wednesday.
The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 920 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is the largest increase since Japan's fourth wave of infections in mid-May and marked the 18th consecutive time the country saw an increase from the previous week.
Prime Minister Suga said a decision on what to do regarding a quasi-state of emergency set to expire on Sunday in 10 prefectures (including Tokyo and Osaka), as well as the ongoing state of emergency in Okinawa, will be made on Thursday.
"Infections in Tokyo are trending upward, and we will take every necessary measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus," Suga told reporters after meeting with cabinet members, including health minister Norihisa Tamura and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan's COVID-19 response.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency three times previously since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, which has included the Japanese government banning restaurants from serving alcohol, a measure reportedly being considered again, according to sources who spoke to Kyodo News anonymously.
Bach arrived in Tokyo last week and spent his first three days in isolation at the International Olympic Committee's five-star hotel in Tokyo and will have his movements limited for his first 14 days in the host city.
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