Staging Olympics not “irresponsible”
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has defended a decision to push on with the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 declaring it wasn't "irresponsible" to do so during a pandemic.
But Bach also reiterated the IOC's stance that athletes set to head to Japan should not jump the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.
After the IOC"s first executive board meeting of the year, Bach said they were pushing ahead with the games after Japanese officials were forced to hose down rumours they would be cancelled.
Much of Japan is under a state of emergency because of a third wave of COVID-19 infections and a majority of locals are opposed to the Games going ahead in July.
"Our task is to organise Olympic Games and not to cancel Olympic Games. This is why we are working day and night to organise safe Olympic Games," he said.
"We are not speculating whether the Games will take place. We are working on how the Games will take place," he added, explaining that the IOC will issue guidelines for athletes and teams next month.
A range of issues around the staging of the Games are yet to be resolved, including whether fans will attend or whether international visitors can travel to the country.
The IOC has already slashed the duration of athletes' stay in Japan. They will now arrive shortly before their competitions and leave straight after in order to reduce the risk of infections.
"Our priority is to ensure safe Olympic Games and we will do whatever is needed to organise safe Olympic Games," he said.
"Everybody would love to have full capacity stadiums and roaring crowds but if this is not possible we will respect our principle and this is the safe organisation. This is the first priority."
Letters have also been sent to all 206 national Olympic committees by the IOC asking them to contact their governments about the status of vaccines.
But Bach said no athlete should be vaccinated before the priority or high risk groups.
"We always made it clear we are not in favour of athletes jumping the queue," Bach said.
"In the first lines must be the high risk groups, the health care workers and the people who keep our society alive. That is the first priority and this is a principle we have established."
A majority of Japanese locals are opposed to the event going ahead in July with COVID-19 still rampant.
But Bach defended the Olympics, saying a number of international competitions are being held during the pandemic.
"Based on the countermeasures and the experience of other events...it is clearly not irresponsible," he said.
The Olympics are set to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
Originally published as Staging Olympics not "irresponsible"