IOC President Thomas Bach got a mixed reception in his visit on Friday to Hiroshima to mark the first day of the so-called Olympic Truce.
Bach’s vice president John Coates also appeared on Friday in Nagasaki, the second city that was hit by an American atomic bomb in 1945.
Bach and Coates have been meeting daily with Japanese officials from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, repeating their message that the Olympics will be “safe and secure.” He was accompanied to Hiroshima by Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee.
Bach laid a wreath and observed a minute of silence in the rain in front of the Peace Memorial Park cenotaph. Faint voices of protesters, who were kept at a distance, could be heard shouting “go home Bach” and “you’re not welcome here.”
Dozens of protesters were seen near the Atomic Bomb Dome with signs that read “Cancel The Olympics” and “No Bach.”
“You should understand you are not welcome here,” one protester said, speaking into a microphone.
“The COVID-19 situation is getting worse, it hasn’t come to an end, and I wonder why this has to go ahead,” said Sayuri Yamada, who identified herself as a medical worker. She was not among the protesters.
She said she did not oppose Bach’s visit, but raised questions about running unnecessary risks for the Olympics. “It’s not that I don’t want him to come absolutely,” she said. “But rather, thinking about the safety of people, including the athletes, my opinion is like he doesn’t have to do this at a time when the risk is high.”
Takayoshi Kayano, who said he was an office worker, respected Bach’s right to visit but raised other issues.
“I think it’s fine to host the Olympics. But the no-spectator policy is a bit disappointing,” he said. “But to me, I feel the IOC seems to be only focused on making money.”