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IOC begins talks with IOA to vaccinate athletes before Olympics

Vaccinating those who will be a part of the Olympics is seen as one of the critical factors in delivering safe Games. Two scenarios are emerging at the moment.

Written by Mihir Vasavda |
Updated: January 26, 2021 12:48:17 pm
IOA, IOC, Narinder Batra, Athletes vaccination, Covid19 vaccination to athletes, Tokyo OlympicsIOA president Narinder Batra said ‘discussions are ongoing on how to vaccinate athletes, support staff and officials’ ahead of the Olympics but it will not be made mandatory. (FILE)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has initiated talks with the national bodies, including the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), over emergency access to Covid-19 vaccines for the Tokyo-bound contingent.

IOA president Narinder Batra said ‘discussions are ongoing on how to vaccinate athletes, support staff and officials’ ahead of the Olympics but it will not be made mandatory. The organisation’s secretary general Rajeev Mehta added they have received a communication from the IOC, saying they along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) will assist the participating nations in securing Covid-19 jabs for the athletes and officials.

The IOA has projected that India will send a record contingent of 125 athletes for the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 9. “No athlete or official will be forced to take the vaccine but a priority quota will be created. There will be more clarity by March-end as by then, the long list of athletes who will be going for the Olympics will be ready,” Batra said.

Vaccinating those who will be a part of the Olympics is seen as one of the critical factors in delivering safe Games. Two scenarios are emerging at the moment. On Saturday, The Daily Telegraph reported that the IOC and WHO are working together to get as many athletes vaccinated as possible before the Games.

The IOC and WHO, the report added, are in talks to secure shots for athletes in countries where vaccination is yet to begin the Covax project. The scheme, whose rollout is likely next month, is led by WHO and Gavi vaccine alliance.

In countries where Covid-19 doses are already being administered, the IOC and WHO are likely to speak to the governments to add athletes in the emergency list. “WHO members will initiate dialogues with the government in their respective countries to get vaccines required for athletes and officials. A set protocol will be followed,” Batra said. “It will be up to the country to decide which vaccine to administer since all of them are approved by the WHO.”

In India, a parliamentary panel said last month that ‘athletes, as well as coaches and support staff going for the Olympics, should be put in the priority group for the vaccination process.’ Sports minister Kiren Rijiju, too, has advocated the same.

The Tokyo Olympics have been shrouded in uncertainty with the rising number of Covid-19 cases in different parts of the world, including the host city Tokyo where a state of emergency was imposed earlier this month.

The public opinion surrounding the Games has plummeted since and there have also been reports about the Japanese government considering cancellation of the Games but they have been rebutted, with the organisers insisting that the Olympics – which were postponed for the first-time ever last year due to the pandemic – will take place as scheduled this time around.

Batra, who is also an IOC member, said he was confident the Games will go ahead. “The Olympics will take place 100 per cent. The question remains over the number of spectators, whether to have 50 per cent crowd or 100 per cent. That call will be taken in the coming weeks,” Batra said.

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