Olympic and Paralympic athletes in some countries are set to receive Covid-19 vaccinations paid for by the International Olympic Committee.
The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, revealed on Thursday that an offer had been made by China’s national Olympic committee to make additional doses available to participants in Tokyo 2020 and also the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“We are grateful for this offer which is in the true Olympic spirit of solidarity. In this spirit, the IOC will pay for these additional doses of vaccines not only for the Olympic, but also for the Paralympic teams,” Bach told the IOC Session, which is being held virtually due to the pandemic.
Bach added that for each of these additional doses, the IOC would pay for two more to be made available to others in that country.
He said the vaccines would be administered either via collaboration with international partners or in countries where agreements with China regarding vaccinations are already in place.
TeamGB athletes are continuing to wait their turn to be immunised, with the British Olympic Association encouraged by the successful rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK so far.
A BOA statement read: “This is welcome news for the wider Olympic movement. Our position remains that priority should still be with the most vulnerable in our society and that there will come an appropriate time, hopefully ahead of the Olympic Games, when the athletes can be considered for vaccination.”
Bach offered words of encouragement for Tokyo organisers that an international event on the scale of the Olympics could be held safely.
“Since September 2020 270 world championships and world cups took place, cumulatively involving 30,000 athletes,” he said.
“Not a single one of these events turned into a virus-spreader. Not a single one posed a risk to the health of the host communities. So we have clear and obvious proof that very big international sports events with a large number of international participants can be organised while safeguarding the health of everyone, including the host community.
“This fact is even more significant because none of these events could benefit from vaccinations. In contrast, we with the Olympic Games are now in the very fortunate position that several vaccines are already widely in use.
“A significant number of Olympic teams have already been vaccinated in line with national guidelines, and another significant number have already received the commitment of their governments in this respect or are in very positive discussions.”
A decision on whether to allow overseas spectators into Japan is set to be taken on or before March 25, while venue capacity limits are due to be set at the end of April.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States’ Olympic and Paralympic Committee Susanne Lyons said it would not boycott the Beijing Winter Games in 2022 over China’s human rights record.
“Boycotts only hurt athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity to represent their country,” she said.