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6 Jan, 2021 18:10

Vaccinate the athletes: Olympics official wants nations to PRIORITIZE athletes for COVID vaccines so that Tokyo Games can go ahead

Vaccinate the athletes: Olympics official wants nations to PRIORITIZE athletes for COVID vaccines so that Tokyo Games can go ahead

A prominent Olympics official has suggested that nations ensure their Olympic athletes are prioritized early in the vaccination rollout to ensure the rearranged Games in Tokyo can go ahead as planned.

Speaking to Sky News, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Dick Pound, used the example of Canada to illustrate how countries can prioritize their Olympic athletes to ensure their nation is represented fully at the Games, and in turn ensure the Olympics remains a fully-participated event.

"In Canada, where we might have 300 or 400 athletes, to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level - I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that," he said.

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"It's a decision for each country to make, and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue, but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead."

In Great Britain, the British Olympic Association (BOA) head, Andy Anson, is telling athletes to continue with their preparations, despite the doubts cast in some quarters over the Games' status.

"I'm telling athletes, 'It's going ahead, you should train as hard as you possibly can and be in the best possible shape to go out there and be part of this amazing celebration'.

"They've got to assume it's happening and every message is it's going to happen but we've got to get through these tough times first."

Despite Pound's suggestion to prioritize athletes for COVID vaccinations, Anson said that luxury won't be afforded to Team GB athletes ahead of the Tokyo Games.

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"They won't get priority access now because I think everyone - athletes included - would agree that the priority is the people who need it most; the frontline workers, the elderly, those with health issues, and that's the first wave of vaccination," he said.

"There will come a time, hopefully in late spring or summer ahead of the Olympic Games, when the athletes can be vaccinated.

"But we'll do that when it's appropriate and when the government feels it's appropriate. With the UK Sport and DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) we're having conversations, but more about when the time is right."

From an athlete's standpoint, open-water swimmer Alice Dearing told Sky News that she felt confident that best practices will be followed in the lead-up to the Games.

"I really think the organizers will do everything they can to keep us safe," said the 23-year-old Briton.

"If a vaccine is available for us and not putting anyone else at risk to have it, then I would have it.

"But it's out of my hands. If I'm told it's not available, that's fine, too. There are bigger things at risk even if that's hard to admit because, for me, swimming is the biggest thing in the world. But the world doesn't revolve around me."

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