Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said on Monday that he is “very, very confident” spectators will be able to attend next year’s postponed Tokyo Games.
With the Olympics due to begin on July 23, Bach said he is hopeful that an effective vaccine – if there is one – will allow the Games to proceed as close to normal as possible in a “post-coronavirus world.”
“In order to protect the Japanese people, and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake a great effort so that … the Olympic participants and visitors will arrive here vaccinated, if by then a vaccine is available,” Bach, who was meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, said in Tokyo.
He told reporters: “This makes us also very, very confident that we can have spectators in the Olympic Stadium next year, and that also the spectators will ensure a safe environment.”
However, Bach denied that it would be mandatory for athletes, officials or fans to be vaccinated before being able to participate in the Games.
“There are some rumors going around … we never said this, that we can make it obligatory or a requirement (to get a vaccine),” he said. “We want to convince as many foreign participants as possible to accept a vaccine.”
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Last week, American drugmaker Pfizer said an early look at data from its coronavirus vaccine showed it was more than 90% effective, while fellow US company Moderna announced on Monday that its vaccine was 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data.
Bach said he and Suga – who fist bumped when meeting and both wore masks – “were totally aligned” in their efforts to make next year’s Olympics and Paralympics a “great success.”
Ahead of Bach’s trip to Japan, Suga had asked for “maximum vigilance” as the country prepares to host the Games amid warnings of a third wave of Covid-19.
Infections in the country reached a three-month high last week, prompting Suga to announce an expansion of contact tracing and testing.
“We know that we will have more Covid counter-measures in our toolbox than we have now,” Bach said. “We know that there will be a more sophisticated rapid testing regime available.
“You see new developments by the month, if not by the week, all over the world. We can also be more confident that most likely there will be vaccines being available.”
He added: “We have been discussing here a number of measures that may have to be taken, or not taken, and this will have a direct influence on the costs.
“It is just impossible now to have a sound figure. You can speculate about any number right now but it is just not realistic at this moment.”