Tokyo’s headache

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 00:00 |
The team’s deputy captain and first Kenyan female boxing Olympian from London 2012 Elizabeth Andiego in training for world Olympic qualifiers 2021. Photo/PD/WEBSTER NYANDIKA

Tokyo, Tuesday

As Olympic organisers deny reports that the Tokyo Games this summer will be postponed again, they, and other sports bodies, are wrestling with the issue of vaccinating participants for Covid-19 at international events.

On Monday, Denis Masseglia, the president of the French National Olympic Committee, said there was no choice but to vaccinate and that “holding the Games is at stake”.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially has been more cautious ahead of the Tokyo Games, scheduled for July 23 to August 8. It encourages the vaccination of athletes but says it cannot impose inoculation.

IOC president Thomas Bach has said there would be “neither a vaccine obligation nor a priority to athletes” for this summer’s Olympics.

Bach cannot impose tests “for legal reasons”, said Masseglia.

The Games will be on agenda of the IOC Executive Board on Wednesday.

“For those who do not wish to be vaccinated, it is important to know that the precautions for participation will be extremely tough,” said Masseglia in a video press conference, warning of “quarantine of a fortnight” and “tests in the mornings and evenings.”

While vaccination programmes are kicking into gear around the globe, they are still focusing on those facing the highest risk, so the question of whether elite athletes should be a priority is, for now, awkward.

“This is not an issue about the Olympics, it is about an issue of how we use a scarce resource to try and combat what has obviously been one of the most devastating health crises of our time,” said World Health Organization senior advisor Bruce Aylward.

There is also the question of the impact of international visitors. In Japan, which reportedly plans to start mass vaccinations in May, a quarter of the population is over 65 and 12.5 percent are over 75.

The Olympics are not the only event facing these dilemmas in an international sports calendar filled with rescheduled events.

After a handful of people on three chartered flights taking tennis players to Melbourne ahead of next month’s Australian Open returned positive Covid-19 tests, the local authorities ordered everyone on board into 14-day quarantine. Some 72 players remain in lockdown. -AFP

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