Most athletes and team members staying at Tokyo’s Olympic village will be vaccinated in time for the start of the Games, IOC chief Thomas Bach said Wednesday, as organizers try to calm fears about staging the event as coronavirus cases surge in Japan.
With less than 10 weeks until the pandemic-postponed Games open on July 23, parts of Japan are under a virus state of emergency and a majority of Japanese want the event delayed further or canceled.
The IOC chief was forced to scrap a visit to Tokyo this week given virus restrictions, but he sounded a confident note speaking with organizers and Japanese officials.
“The most important principle is very clear, the Olympic village is a safe place and the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Tokyo 2020 will be organized in a safe way,” he said, appearing by video call.
“At this moment, already as many as 75 percent of the residents of the Olympic village are already vaccinated or have secured vaccination in time before the Olympic Games,” Bach added.
And he said IOC officials “have good reasons to believe that this figure will be well above 80 percent” by the time the Games begin.
Organizers have outlined extensive virus countermeasures to keep the Games safe, including barring overseas fans for the first time ever.
But with Japan battling the fourth wave of infections, two doctors’ associations have warned in recent days that the healthcare system is already overstretched and the Games would add further stress.
In an apparent bid to address that, Bach said the IOC was willing to bring extra medical personnel.
“The IOC has offered to the organizing committee to have additional medical personnel as part of the NOC (National Olympic Committee) delegations,” Bach said, without detailing how many people could come.
The additional personnel would “support the medical operations and the strict implementation of the Covid-19 countermeasures in the Olympic Village and the Olympic venues,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said organizers would accept the offer, adding that vaccination of participants “would be a great help towards delivering a safe and secure Games”.