Covid-19 vaccines no ‘silver bullet’ for Tokyo Olympics, warns IOC President

Amid uncertainty about planning the Tokyo Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that progress with vaccines and rapid testing for COVID-19 would not be the complete answer for staging the rescheduled games.

“They will not be the silver bullet but they can greatly facilitate the organization of the games,” Bach said at a news conference after an IOC board meeting.

While the Japanese public has been sceptical about the July 23 to Aug. 8 games going ahead, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said this week, “I feel we have to hold them no matter what.”

Bach declined to speculate on the Tokyo Olympics being held without fans.

“We don’t know how the world looks like tomorrow,” Bach said. “So how can you expect from us to know how the world looks in 320 days from today?”

He asked athletes to accept any demands made of them in traveling to and staying in Japan next year.

“Nobody can just look at him or herself and say ‘I do not want this’ or ‘I don’t think this is fair.’ You have to show solidarity there in order to fight the virus,” Bach said. “If you need a quarantine to ensure a safe environment for all the participants of the games, then you need to go to quarantine.”

The IOC will be holding “important discussions” on coronavirus countermeasures in the coming weeks, but it is still too early to say what steps will be taken, Bach said.

“We will continue to follow the principle that has driven all our decisions so far, which is to organize the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe environment for all people involved next summer,” Bach said.

“In the next coming weeks, you will see important and intensive discussions taking place with regard to the different scenarios regarding the COVID-19 countermeasures.”

John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics, gave a report on the progress of the games during the online board meeting.

Earlier this week, Coates told AFP the games would open as planned on July 23 next year “with or without” the coronavirus.

But Bach said Coates’ comments should be seen “in context,” and that the chairman was fully committed to “ensure safety for all participants” in line with the IOC’s position.

The board also discussed virus countermeasures for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, with safety plans underway for Tokyo also applying to the games in China, according to Bach.