Covid vaccine not mandatory at Olympics: Bach

Tokyo, Nov 17 (IANS/Agencies) | Publish Date: 11/17/2020 1:24:15 PM IST

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has announced that athletes will not be forced to get COVID-19 vaccinations to compete at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics and cannot jump the queue to get vaccinated first.  

According to, Bach, who visited the Athletes’ Village on Tuesday before concluding his two-day Tokyo trip with a visit to the National Stadium, said that mandatory shots would be ‘going too far’. 
Bach is in Tokyo to bolster confidence in the pandemic-postponed event but insisted that taking a vaccine would be a ‘free decision’ for athletes and others involved in the Games.
‘There are too many issues to consider. This is a question of private health. It is a question also of (the) health conditions of each and every person. It’s a question of availability,’ the Germans said. 
‘We will encourage athletes that whenever possible they have the vaccination because it is better for their health, and it is also a demonstration of solidarity with their fellow athletes and also the Japanese people.’ Bach’s trip, his first to Japan since the decision to postpone the Games in March, has been up-beat throughout and he has spoken about the great impact a vaccine could have on Tokyo´s ability to host the Olympics next year.
More than 11,000 athletes are expected to descend upon Tokyo for the Olympics, which are due to begin on July 23, with thousands more coming for the subsequent Paralympics. However, when pressed whether athletes were going to jump the queue to get any potential vaccine before the Games, Bach was adamant this wouldn’t be the case.
‘We made it clear from the very beginning that the first priorities are for the nurses, medical doctors and everybody who keeps our society alive, despite the coronavirus crisis,’ Bach told reporters at the National Stadium.
 ‘These are the people who deserve to be the first ones to be vaccinated.’ Tokyo 2020 organisers are holding a project review meeting this week and hope to decide on a range of COVID-19 counter-measures, including whether spectators will be allowed in venues next year.  
A small group of anti-Olympics protesters gathered outside the stadium during Bach’s visit, and their chanted slogans could be heard as he walked alone down the running track and looked up at the empty seats surrounding him.
The IOC chief believed that the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games can be held safely and, in all likelihood, with some kind of crowd inside the venues next year.
Bach, who is on his first visit to Japan since the Covid-19 pandemic broke, on Monday said the nation had shown they can organise sporting events in a safe environment through recent competitions, which has given him the belief that the Games will go on with spectators present.
“We are looking for a reasonable number of spectators at the time of the Games”, quoted Bach as saying at a press conference following the first day of the Games’ Project Review. 
“You can organise safe sports events. We have seen in the professional leagues, particularly in baseball, games already under the restrictions now with spectators that have been very successful. Of course everybody in the Olympic Games would like a full house, a full-capacity stadium. But the top priority of the IOC and of the organising committee has always been, and remains, to offer a safe environment - also for spectators,” he added.
Bach also said that if a vaccine becomes available in time for the July 23-August 8 Games in 2021, the IOC would foot the bill.
Earlier in the day, Bach met with both Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide and Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko, saying the IOC was “fully aligned” with them on how the Games should be run.
Prime Minister Suga assured Bach: “Our determination is to realise successful and secure Tokyo Games next summer as proof that humanity has defeated the virus.”
Bach added: “We share the great commitment of the Prime Minister that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will happen next year. We are determined that safe Olympic Games will be a symbol of solidarity and unity.”
Before attending the Project Review at the headquarters of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Bach was at the Japanese Olympic Museum, where he awarded the former Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, the Olympic Order in Gold.


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