• Reuters

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Canada’s Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe has said frontline workers and vulnerable people should be prioritized over Olympic athletes for the new coronavirus vaccine.

Senior International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound said on Friday athletes should be given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine so the Tokyo Games can go ahead as scheduled from July 23.

Over 15,000 athletes from almost every country in the world are expected to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics.

“I think the Olympic movement stands in its purity for a lot more than just putting athletes on stage to entertain the world,” Wiebe told the CBC.

“The most important people that need to get the vaccine are front-line workers, those most at risk and people in long-term care homes — they are the ones that need to be prioritized.

Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games in the men’s floor exercise, echoed compatriot Wiebe’s comments, saying the vaccine is “liquid gold.”

“From a moral standpoint, it doesn’t sit right (with me),” Shewfelt said. “They (athletes) are already healthy, they’re in an age bracket that hasn’t been shown to be super vulnerable to fatal outcomes from this disease.

“As much as I want the Olympics to move forward… there isn’t a doubt in my mind where (vaccines) need to go. The Olympics can still move ahead safely, regardless of whether athletes get vaccinated or not.”

During his visit to Tokyo in November, IOC President Thomas Bach said athletes would be encouraged to get the vaccine but that it would not be mandatory to participate in the games.

Concerns over whether the Olympics can be held in Tokyo have increased in the last few weeks as COVID-19 cases surge in Japan and around the world.

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