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13 Jul, 2021 10:25

‘Great start’: Olympic chief Bach makes awkward gaffe by referring to Japanese as CHINESE in first Tokyo public speech

‘Great start’: Olympic chief Bach makes awkward gaffe by referring to Japanese as CHINESE in first Tokyo public speech

IOC president Thomas Bach made a uncomfortable slip in his first public appearance since arriving in Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics, referring to the local Japanese public as "Chinese people" and causing backlash on social media.

The controversy-hit summer spectacular is finally set to open in 10 days' time after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bach arrived in the host city last week, and was in isolation for the first three days of his stay at the IOC's five-star hotel in the center of the Japanese capital.

No different to most people connected to the Olympics, his movements will be limited for the first fortnight.

But his first stop was to the organizing committee's headquarters to rally the troops, as the much-maligned games opposed by large swathes of the Japanese public go ahead without any fans in almost every venue.

The decision for this development was made after the Japanese government issued a state of emergency across Tokyo due to rising Covid cases, which will run through to August 22.

But Bach has done himself nor the Olympics any favors in getting the locals on their side thanks to his disastrous speech.

"You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic Games," he said starting positively, to organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto.

"This is even more remarkable under the difficult circumstances we all have to face."


"Now it’s 10 days to go to the opening ceremony," he continued. "That also means there’s still a lot of work to do."

Yet Bach then tripped over his words when addressing his hosts, and embarrassingly made reference to the "Chinese people" as opposed to "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," he remarked, quickly correcting himself.

Ending with a Japanese phrase, "Gambari mashou," which can be translated as "Let’s do our best", Bach’s gaffe was not included in interpretations from English to Japanese.

Yet when the Japanese media reported it, a backlash ensued on social media.

A Japanese AP reporter branded it a "fatal mistake" and was told in the replies section: "We all look the same to him" by a compatriot Twitter user.

"Just when we thought this Olympic fiasco couldn’t get any worse…," began another. "No no nooo."

"Tell me you don’t care about Japanese people without telling me you don’t care about Japanese people," she added, alongside a clown emoji.

"Bach get out of my country!!!! If the CHINESE are your most important people, go to China," he was advised.

"Is it too late to cancel the Olympics?" someone asked.

"Great start" said another person elsewhere with a facepalm smiley.

"This guy is unbelievable," quipped one more.

Even before this, Bach's very presence in Japan has been unwelcome. 

On Saturday, protestors gathered outside his hotel brandishing placards that said as much.

On Friday, he is to touch bases in Hiroshima to tie the games to the World War II-landmark city's efforts to promote world peace, while IOC Vice President visits Nagasaki on the same day.

But the Kyodo news agency has already reported that a Hiroshima group is voicing opposition to Bach's Hiroshima trip.

Elsewhere today, police in Tokyo confirmed they had arrested a quartet of American and British men contracted for the Olympics by a power company on suspicion of using cocaine, which caused Aggreko Events Services Japan to apologize.

NHK reported that the suspects entered the country between February and May and were staying in Tokyo.

Also on rt.com Fans banned from Tokyo 2020 Olympics after Japan declares Covid-19 state of emergency and IOC pledges to ‘support any measure’