Coronavirus vaccine not key to Tokyo Olympic Games

Coronavirus vaccine not key to Tokyo Olympic Games

TOKYO • Olympic boss Thomas Bach said yesterday that the Tokyo Games could take place next year even without a coronavirus vaccine, pointing to the success of the Tour de France.

Striking an optimistic note at a meeting with Tokyo 2020 organisers, he vowed to make the postponed event a triumph despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.

“We can see that sport is coming back slowly but surely, and that a number of big sport events have been successfully organised recently, including matches in different Japanese leagues,” he said via a video link from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“Also very complex events like the Tour de France and others, which showed to us and showed to the world that we can organise safe sport events even without a vaccine.”

The Tour de France – the world’s biggest cycling race – started with an international field of 176 riders on Aug 29 and followed a 3,484km course over three weeks.

IOC head Bach said a vaccine and progress in rapid testing “would of course greatly facilitate” holding the Olympics.

The 2020 Games were postponed earlier this year as the deadly new illness spread around the globe.

They are now set to open on July 23 next year, with organisers insisting they will go ahead in some form – and be safe for all involved.

Drugs companies are racing to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 980,000 people around the world and infected over 32 million.

Several leading vaccine candidates are currently in late-stage trials.

Bach said it was impossible to make a contingency plan for every scenario, and said organisers would not be pressured into making premature announcements on how the Games would take place.

“We have to work diligently and we have to work comprehensively, and then at the appropriate time, take the right decisions,” he said.

“This work will continue until the opening of the Olympics. This crisis requires a lot of flexibility and sacrifice from all of us.

“I’m sure that we will make… these Olympic Games, which will be historic in different respects, a success, and we will make it a success together.”

Bach and new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke by telephone on Wednesday and agreed to cooperate closely to stage a safe and secure Games for athletes and spectators.

“We are sitting together in one boat. The only thing we have to do now is to row in the same direction,” Bach said during the meeting, in which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and other officials participated.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS