Bach of­fers pep ses­sion for Tokyo Oly, talks up vac­cine

Arab Times - - SPORTS -

TOKYO, Sept 24, (AP): IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach de­liv­ered a pep talk to Ja­panese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and lo­cal or­ga­niz­ers on Thurs­day that included sug­ges­tions that “hun­dreds of mil­lions” of doses COVID-19 vac­cines would be avail­able be­fore the post­poned Olympics open in July.

Bach was speak­ing from Switzer­land in an on-line gath­er­ing of of­fi­cials in Ja­pan dur­ing the first of two days of meet­ings fo­cused on how to pull off the de­layed Tokyo Games.

Bach pointed out that ma­jor sports events like the Tour de France have been held with lim­ited fans and with­out the vac­cine. But he said a vac­cine – or vac­cines – could be ready for Tokyo, al­though he gave few de­tails.

“We have very en­cour­ag­ing news about the devel­op­ment of a vac­cine – and not only a vac­cine, but vac­cines,” he said.

Bach added that the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee was in con­tact with the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and other “ex­perts” and un­named phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. He said


they were “unan­i­mous” in say­ing that a vac­cine will be avail­able at the be­gin­ning of next year.

“In the first cou­ple months of next year we will have dif­fer­ent vac­cines.” Bach said. “They will be avail­able in very con­sid­er­able doses.”

Bach said this could amount to “hun­dreds of mil­lions of doses be­ing avail­able al­ready in the first half of the next year.”

A hand­ful of vac­cines al­ready are in fi­nal test­ing in the United States and other coun­tries, and hopes are high they might be ready by the end of the year. Bach has pre­vi­ously said he was also in con­tact with Chi­nese phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Si­no­vac.

Bach did not tackle the big eth­i­cal ques­tion: Should young, healthy ath­letes be a pri­or­ity for a vac­cine, ahead of health work­ers and vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions? And will ath­letes want to take a vac­cine, fear­ing they might fall ill days be­fore com­pet­ing?

Speak­ing for about 15 min­utes, Bach tried to as­sure Ja­panese or­ga­niz­ers – and the Ja­panese public and spon­sors who have been skep­ti­cal that the games will hap­pen – that plan­ning is on track.

Do­mes­tic spon­sors have con­trib­uted $3.3 bil­lion to the lo­cal oper­at­ing bud­get, and polls sug­gest many are re­luc­tant to re­new their con­tracts.

Sur­veys have shown a ma­jor­ity of Ja­panese com­pa­nies and the public don’t think the Olympics will hap­pen next year – or should hap­pen.

Back re­peated sev­eral times that next year’s games have to be “fit for the post-Corona world”. He said the Tokyo Olympics were the “best pre­pared” in his­tory, but that will not be enough.

“We can­not just re­peat the great work you have been do­ing, or copy­ing it and slightly adapt­ing it. We have to adapt it to this new world,” Bach said.

He also said the IOC and lo­cal or­ga­niz­ers would not be rushed to re­veal de­tails of ex­actly how the Tokyo Olympics will take place. He said many sce­nar­ios were in play, and might be up un­til the open­ing cer­e­mony.

“No­body can ex­pect from us that we know al­ready ex­actly what needs to be done in 10 months from now,” he said. “This work will con­tinue un­til the day of the open­ing cer­e­mony be­cause it is new for all of us.”

He also pointed out that many coun­tries are in dif­fer­ent stages of COVID-19, and in the re­li­a­bil­ity of their test­ing.

“This is not only about the con­di­tions in Ja­pan and the con­di­tions for travel to Ja­pan,” he said. “This also con­cerns the con­di­tions in the 205 other na­tional Olympic com­mit­tees.”

The two-day meet­ing this week come as Ja­pan’s Kyodo news agency has re­ported more de­tails about the bribery scan­dal that seemed to have helped Tokyo land the Olympics in 2013. It forced the res­ig­na­tion last year of Tsunekazu Takeda, the pres­i­dent of the Ja­panese Olympic Com­mit­tee.

IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach (on the screen), speaks re­motely dur­ing an on­line meet­ing fo­cused on how to pull off the de­layed Tokyo Games in Tokyo on Sept 24. (AP)

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