• REUTERS

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has told athletes they should travel to Tokyo with “full confidence” that the delayed 2020 Games will be safe for competitors and not jeopardize the health of Japan’s residents.

Speaking in a Q&A session during an online conference of the Athletes’ Commission on Thursday, Bach said the safety of athletes was at the heart of the planning for the games, which are scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8.

“Tokyo is the best prepared Olympic city ever and this relates particularly to the focus they are putting on the athletes and the athletes’ experience,” the German told around 2,000 athletes and Olympic officials from Lausanne.

“Because of the pandemic we all know, unfortunately, the athletes’ experience will be very different, but what is important is the competitions can and will take place in a safe way and in full respect of the athletes.

“This should give all of us a lot of confidence that it’s really about the athletes and about making the athletes feel comfortable and making the Japanese people feel comfortable.

“Come with full confidence to Tokyo and get ready,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of easing in Japan less than two months before the games and the government is looking to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by about three weeks to June 20.

Concerns in Japan about variants of the coronavirus and a slow vaccination drive have prompted urgent calls to cancel the Olympics from doctors, some high-profile business leaders and hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Bach has previously said 80% of the 10,500 athletes expected in Japan would be vaccinated and on Thursday he urged Olympians to get their shots if they could.

“Take the opportunity whenever it arises to get vaccinated because this will increase the safety there for everybody, for yourself, for all your fellow athletes and for the Japanese people,” he said.

“I got my two shots and I’m still in good shape.”

The IOC’s Chief Operating Officer Lana Haddad told the conference that a consent form athletes would be required to sign releasing Tokyo organizers from liability for COVID-19 issues was “standard practice” for “big event organizers.”

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