European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa wrote a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach asking for the Slovenian team to carry the EU flag.
Slovenia is currently holding the EU Council’s rotating presidency. The two chiefs said that carrying the EU flag at the Olympics opening ceremony would “render Slovenian athletes ambassadors for European unity and the values underpinning our Union, which match those of the Olympic movement”.
They wrote that the flag could stand as a “symbol of peaceful coexistence, tolerance and solidarity”.
They added: “We will fully support you in any way you see appropriate in introducing this special and historical gesture.”
They added that the gesture could “serve as a powerful representation of how unity and peace must be celebrated through this event, fundamental as they are to both the European and Olympic spirit”.
“We believe that, as two organisations united by these shared values, the European Union and the International Olympic Committee are uniquely positioned to promote peace and understanding at a time when the world needs it most”, Mr Jansa and Mr Schinas wrote.
The Olympic Games are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan.
It is not the first time the EU has made such a demand.
In 2004, then European Commission President Romano Prodi called for athletes from EU member states to showcase the EU flag as well as their own national flag during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The idea was praised by France’s Europe Affairs Minister Clement Beaune.
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He wrote: “Full support, dear Schinas.
“A beautiful symbol, in addition to our national flags.”
With just four days before the opening ceremony in Tokyo, 68 percent of respondents in an Asahi newspaper poll expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55 percent saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.
Three-quarters of the 1,444 people in the telephone survey said they agreed with a decision to ban spectators from events.
As COVID-19 cases rise in Tokyo, which is under a fourth state of emergency, public concern has grown that hosting an event with tens of thousands of overseas athletes, officials and journalists could accelerate infection rates in Japan’s capital and introduce variants that are more infectious or deadlier.
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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said he hopes the Japanese public will warm to the Games once competition begins and as Japanese athletes begin winning medals.
“We will continue to co-operate and work closely with organisers such as Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020, and the IOC to ensure we have a safe and secure environment for the Games,” government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular briefing.
Games officials on Sunday reported the first COVID-19 case among competitors in the athletes’ village in Tokyo where 11,000 athletes are expected to stay during the Games.
Since July 2, Tokyo 2020 organisers have reported 58 positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists.
Any major outbreak in the village could wreak havoc on competitions because those either infected or isolating would not be able to compete.
Olympic officials and individual event organisers have contingency plans to deal with infections among athletes.
A Tokyo 2020 spokesperson said the village was a safe place to stay, adding the infection rate among athletes and other Games-related people visiting Japan was nearly 0.1 pct.
On Sunday six British track and field athletes along with two staff members were forced to isolate after someone on their flight to Japan tested positive for COVID-19.
“Many athletes may have parties or ceremonies before they go to Tokyo where there may be cheering or greeting. So they may also have a risk to get infected in their own countries,” said Koji Wada, a professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare and an adviser on the government’s coronavirus response.
The latest surge in cases in Tokyo comes after four earlier waves, the deadliest of which was in January.
New COVID-19 cases in Tokyo reached 1,410 on Saturday, the most since the start of the year, with new infections exceeding 1,000 for five straight days.
Most of those new cases are among younger people, as Japan has succeeded in getting most of its vulnerable elderly population vaccinated with at least one shot, although only 32 percent of the overall population has so far received one.
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