IOC shock after protester saying 'f*** the Olympics' crashes online press conference

A protester going by the name of David O‘Brien manages to steal screen time during the IOC’s online press conference on May 12 with spokesman Mark Adams.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A mysterious protester embarrassed International Olympic Committee officials on Wednesday (May 12) when he managed to gatecrash an official online press conference to display an anti-Tokyo Olympics banner while uttering “f*** the Olympics”.

A man going by the name of David O’Brien and claiming to be from Yahoo was last up during question time at an IOC online press conference, which followed Wednesday’s board meeting.

However, instead of asking a question, he held up a black banner with “X” signs and the words “Olympics in Tokyo” – most likely meaning “no Olympics in Tokyo” – while making the crude remark.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams, sitting in for President Thomas Bach, was taken aback before asking for the press conference to be ended.

When queried as to how the protester managed to pass vetting, the IOC press office responded: “This individual registered as a media representative of Yahoo.”

The IOC’s online conference platform calls for media to “raise a hand” when they want to ask a question. The request is passed through a moderator before being approved and their screen and audio is switched on to be able to ask a question.

The protester’s message did, however, reflect the overall theme of the press conference with most media questions seeking IOC views on whether the Tokyo Games will indeed start on July 23 despite a surge in Covid-19 cases and the Japanese government extending a state of emergency in Tokyo and greater Osaka until May 31.

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Adams, however, hardly flinched as he stoically maintained the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers’ line that the Games will go on, saying they are in the “final phases of implementation” with most of the test events and qualifying competitions completed.

“We continue to plan for a full Games and that’s the way it has to be and that’s the only way it can be for us,” said Adams. “Everything is telling us, from the test events to the international events, that the Games can go ahead and will go ahead.”

The 2020 Olympics, which were delayed from last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is costing at least US$26 billion (S$35 billion), most of it paid by the Japanese public.

Despite polls showing the majority of Japanese people are in favour of postponing or cancelling the Games, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is determined that it will go ahead as planned.

A handout photo. The Sea Forest Waterway (Central Breakwater) in Tokyo Bay, venue for the Olympics rowing, was used during a test and qualifying event in early May.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Adams refused to discuss the veracity of opinion polls, though, saying the IOC has its own polls though he was unable to provide figures when queried further.

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“I am not going to comment on polls which I haven’t seen or haven’t seen how they are conducted and I’m certainly not going to give headlines saying I trust them or mistrust them,” said Adams.

“They are what they are, we obviously do our own polling. As you know these are very specific times and very different to normal, but as you know there is always a dip ahead of the Games, quite often.

“So, we take note of them, we take note of public opinion, and we think that at this stage, the Games can go ahead and I think you will see when they do go ahead and there is an amazing moment, then that will be reflected in public opinion in general.

“As with all organisations, we have to pay attention to public opinion but not be totally driven by it.”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.