IOC President: Vulnerable must be vaccinated before Tokyo 2020 athletes

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Bach said athletes 'should be free' to decide whether they compete at Tokyo. Credit: IOC/Greg Martin
Bach said athletes 'should be free' to decide whether they compete at Tokyo. Credit: IOC/Greg Martin

Thomas Bach says the IOC will not buy COVID-19 vaccines for athletes at Tokyo 2020 if vulnerable people haven’t received them first, writes Tom Harle.

The prospect of a vaccine being used as a ‘clinical passport’ for the Games has been mooted, and Tokyo 2020 organisers expressed relief at the success of Pfizer’s ongoing trial.

Bach underlined young, healthy athletes should be among the last to receive a dose, with IOC talks with the World Health Organisation and global pharmaceutical companies ongoing.

“There are different options under consideration on how vaccines can be made available,” Bach told media on Wedneday.

“But the first wave of vaccination is - and this we are supporting very much - for the people in need, the high-risk groups.

“It is for the nurses and for the medical doctors and for everybody who is keeping our societies alive. In this context, we will have further discussions with all the experts.”

Bach hopes his upcoming visit to Tokyo will help turn the tanker of mounting Japanese antipathy and opposition to the postponed Olympic Games in 2020.

80 per cent of the Japanese population believe the Games can’t be held during COVID-19, according to survey results released in July, with only 23.9% believing it should go ahead.

Bach travels to Japan for the first time since 2019 bolstered by the first international sporting event held in the country during COVID - gymnastics’s Friendship & Solidarity Competition.

He will visit the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village in his first engagement outside Europe during the pandemic, after his recent trip to South Korea to accept the Seoul Peace Prize was cancelled.

“The message I want to deliver in Tokyo and to Japan and to the Japanese people is that we are fully committed to the safe organisation of the Games,” he said.

“These Games will happen in a safe environment, and for this we are undertaking all efforts.
“This, we hope, will help to change some people’s minds. We are discussing how we will manage this environment and there is a huge, huge toolbox already underway.

“I can and will not go into the details, but this is starting from travel restrictions, immigraiton, quarantine, rapid testing to vaccination to social distancing, you name it.

“This will give confidence to the participants but also to our gracious Japanese hosts that these Games will offer a safe environment for everybody, and also for the hosts.”

Bach was able to confirm that top NBA stars will be free to compete at Tokyo 2020 with a shortened NBA season firmed up to start in December.

“This is excellent news and shows the excellent collaboration we have with the NBA and FIBA, which is ongoing in this way for a couple of years,” he said.

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