IOC President Thomas Bach held consultation calls with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) on Friday, as the Olympic Movement enters the final stretch in the preparations for the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
In the calls, he explained that the IOC continues to work together with the Tokyo and Beijing Organising Committees, as well as with the local and national governments in Japan and China. The IOC is also continuing to consult with the World Health Organization (WHO), to make every effort towards staging safe and secure Games.
In that respect, the IOC and its partners have been developing a toolbox of COVID-19 countermeasures, which includes immigration procedures, quarantine measures, testing, personal protective equipment, contact tracing and also vaccinations.
Vaccines are one of many tools available in the toolbox, to be used at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. The IOC continues to strongly support the priority of vaccinating vulnerable groups, nurses, medical doctors and everyone who is keeping our societies safe.
When vaccination is made available to a broader public, the IOC calls for Olympic and Paralympic teams to be vaccinated given their role as ambassadors of their NOCs and given the role of sport “to promote safe sport as a contributor to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities”, as recently stated in a UN resolution which was adopted by consensus in the UN General Assembly. This resolution also highlighted the importance of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Therefore, the IOC will work with the NOCs to encourage and assist their athletes, officials and stakeholders to get vaccinated in their home countries, in line with national immunisation guidelines, before they go to Japan. This is to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the Japanese people, who should be confident that everything is being done to protect not only the participants, but also the Japanese people themselves.
During the consultation calls with the NOCs, the IOC was informed that a number of national governments have already taken positive decisions in this respect or are in consultation with their NOCs.
In order to get a full picture about the vaccination situation for the 206 NOCs, the IOC will send a letter to the NOCs asking them to actively engage with their respective governments on this matter and to report back to the IOC in early February 2021. The NOCs are encouraged to do so in association with their respective National Paralympic Committees.
“In all these conversations and initiatives, the IOC is guided by four principles: firstly, to organise Olympic Games in a safe environment for everyone. Secondly, vaccination priority should be given to vulnerable groups, nurses, medical doctors and everyone who is keeping our societies safe. Thirdly, we encourage all the Olympic and Paralympic participants who are offered vaccination to accept it, also as an act of solidarity with the Japanese hosts and their fellow participants. Fourthly, vaccination will not be obligatory,” said IOC President Bach.
The NOCs were also reminded that WHO and the IOC are working together to promote global health and wellbeing, in particular for the prevention of non-communicable diseases. WHO, the IOC and the UN recently cooperated in the #HealthyTogether campaign to help protect people against COVID-19.
Therefore, the IOC asked the NOCs to actively support this and other campaigns in their territories. Athletes are important role models, and those taking the vaccine can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration for the wellbeing of others in their communities.