Olympic president’s speech draws backlash after referring to Japanese people as ‘Chinese’

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach drew criticism for a slip-up when he referred to the Japanese people as Chinese during his first appearance speech in Tokyo on Tuesday.

What happened: Bach gave a speech at the headquarters of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, where he commended Tokyo as “the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic Games” despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Associated Press.


  • “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 said as he immediately corrected his mistake.
  • An interpreter translated the speech from English to Japanese but left out the blunder.
  • The Japanese media caught the gaffe and reported it, stirring backlash online.

Other details: Bach arrived in Tokyo on July 8 and spent a few days in quarantine before his first appearance at the press conference, The Guardian reported.


  • Protesters opposing the Olympics showed up outside Bach’s hotel on July 10, with signboards saying he is not welcome in Tokyo.
  • Japanese media reported that a group is also opposing his visit to Hiroshima on Friday.
  • The IOC sparked outrage after officials insisted on pushing the Games’ opening date to July 23. Many experts argued the influx of people coming to the Olympics could set off a new wave of infection.
  • Organizers expect 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of officials, judges, media and broadcasters to be present in Tokyo for the games.

Past backlash: This is not the first time that Bach has received backlash in Japan for his comments regarding the upcoming Games, reported The Washington Post.

  • In March, he said that the Olympics would require a “great sacrifice.”
  • In May, he praised the Japanese peoples’ “great resilience and spirit” for having “overcome adversity.”
  • The comments were reportedly found distasteful, as many in Japan did not wish to host the games or make the sacrifices given the level of risks.
  • AP News stated that public polls showed that 50%-80% of the people oppose the Olympics.

Featured Image via NBC Sports

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