Athletes won’t be required to take a coronavirus vaccine to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Tuesday, adding that mandatory shots would be “going too far”.
Bach, who is in Tokyo to bolster confidence in the pandemic-postponed event, said 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,” the IOC chief said during a tour of the Olympic Village.
“It is a question also of (the) health conditions of each and every person. It’s a question of availability.”
However, the IOC will “appeal” to athletes and others to be vaccinated, Bach added, calling it a “sign of respect” for other competitors and the Japanese hosts.
Bach, wearing a mask, was welcomed at the village by triathlete Ai Ueda, who is aiming for her fourth straight games appearance next summer, and Sarina Satomi, the winner of the para-badminton world championship last year in the WH1 class.
The mayor of the village, former Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi, showed Bach around the residential units in the Harumi waterfront district where some 10,000 athletes and coaches are set to be housed during the games next summer.
Bach and Japanese organizers have sounded a confident note that the event will go ahead — buoyed by recent positive vaccine trials and a successful international gymnastics event in Tokyo this month.
Bach said the organizing committee would take “all the necessary precautionary measures, so that athletes can relax and feel safe”.
On Monday, he said the IOC would look to help athletes secure shots if they are available and approved.
Australian Minister for Health Greg Hunt said Tuesday the IOC had reassured him “they have moved to secure vaccines for all athletes and officials who would be attending from around the world”.
“So our expectation is that there will be vaccines for all athletes from all nations and all officials from all nations, and they’ll be well and truly ready long in advance of the Olympic Games.”
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