IOC chief Thomas Bach: Olympic spectators could receive Covid-19 vaccine
With Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine nearing approval from UK and US regulatory authorities, IOC chief Thomas Bach has voiced his hope that both athletes and visitors coming to Japan for next year's Olympic games could be innoclulated against the disease. The Games have already been pushed back a year due to the pandemic.
Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), elbow bump after a ceremony to present the Olympic Order to Abe at Japan Olympic Museum on November 16, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan
On Monday, Bach fist-bumped with Japan's new premier, Yoshihide Suga, and told Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike they could be confident a vaccine would be available by next summer.
"In order to protect the Japanese people, and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that ... the Olympic participants and visitors will arrive here vaccinated if, by then, a vaccine is available," he said.
The IOC was now "very confident" that spectators would be able to attend the Games, he added.
News of a potentially successful vaccine from Pfizer Inc has lifted hopes for the staging of the Games, but public opinion in Japan remains mixed, with nearly 70% of respondents in a July poll told NHK, a public broadcaster that the event should be further postponed or canceled.
In contrast, most Japanese firms want the Games to go ahead next summer, even though they admit the event's contribution to the economy would be limited.
Last week Japan reported record new daily virus cases, though it has not suffered the high deaths seen elsewhere.
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Bach called next year's games a "light at the end of the tunnel" after the world's pandemic battle, and pointed to recent sporting competitions in Japan as proof that events could already take place safely.
This month, Tokyo successfully hosted an international gymnastics meet at which organisers tested a range of Covid-19 countermeasures.
On his Tokyo visit, Bach also awarded Abe the Olympic Order in gold, the IOC's highest accolade.
When premier, Abe made himself all but synonymous with Tokyo 2020, even famously appearing as video game character Mario at the closing ceremony of the Rio Games in 2016.
Later on Monday, Bach will hold a news conference with the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, and on Tuesday he is due to visit the newly-built National Stadium.