To protect the Olympic Games, the IOC will buy vaccines from China
On this delicate subject, as vaccines are still lacking for vulnerable people, the IOC is moving forward on a thread: it “encourages” the vaccination of athletes, but without making it compulsory or claiming a priority for these people in good health.
In this context, the Chinese Olympic authorities have offered to “make available additional doses of vaccines for the participants” at the Tokyo and Beijing Games, IOC boss Thomas Bach announced on Thursday.
The Olympic body, faced with the unprecedented challenge of organizing two editions of the Olympic Games in eight months in the midst of a pandemic, will “pay” for these injections, which will concern “not only the Olympic teams, but also the Paralympics”, according to Mr. Bach.
No timetable has been provided, no more than an order of magnitude on the number of doses or the modalities of their allocation, which could be done “via international partners”, or “in countries where partnerships already exist with the Chinese government “.
“Securing” the Games
Faced with the ethical questions raised by this initiative, the IOC has undertaken, “for each additional dose” allocated to the Olympic delegations, to “buy two more for the population of the same country”.
Renewed Wednesday for four years at the head of the Lausanne authority, the 67-year-old German described this transaction with China as “a milestone in securing the Tokyo Games”.
“This is our manifestation of solidarity with the Japanese people, for whom we have so much respect,” insisted the IOC boss.
On the second day of the 137th IOC Session, Thomas Bach was once again optimistic about the holding of the next Olympic Games, already postponed for a year and now scheduled for July 23 to August 8.
According to the leader, “a significant number of Olympic teams have already been vaccinated, in accordance with their national guidelines” – Russia, Israel, Denmark or Hungary, for example, have announced such systematic programs.
In addition, “another significant number” of delegations “received a commitment from their governments”, giving hope for a significant vaccination coverage among the 11,000 athletes expected this summer in Japan.
Thomas Bach has been insisting for several months on the number of international competitions organized since last summer without having led to a wave of contamination, even before the vaccines provide additional protection.
About “270 international competitions”, involving “more than 30,000 athletes”, were able to take place following strict protocols, like the drastic measures planned in Tokyo and combining frequent tests, shortened stay and distancing.
A large majority of the Japanese population nevertheless remains hostile to hosting the Games this summer, while the spread of more contagious variants of Covid-19 currently prohibits any relaxation of health precautions.
The Japanese media also take for granted that foreign spectators will not be allowed to attend the Olympics, even if the country’s authorities will not formalize their decision until the end of March.
More broadly, the blur remains on the presence of the public, while the accepted gauge for each competition venue was initially to be defined by the end of April.
But, Wednesday evening, Thomas Bach judged preferable to decide “as late as possible” on this subject, to be able to integrate “the developments which can occur in May or June”.
Games behind closed doors have not been a taboo for a few months, especially since the income from the Olympic high mass is mainly due to their broadcasting around the world, much more than the crowds in the stadiums.