Thomas Bach suggests IOC could look to secure vaccine supply for Olympics

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has not ruled out seeking to source a supply of coronavirus vaccine doses to ensure the safe staging of next summer’s Games in Tokyo.

The German has said he will visit the Japanese capital between November 15 and 18, his first trip there since the Games were postponed by 12 months in March due to the global pandemic.

He will head to the Far East encouraged by recent developments in regard to a vaccine. On Monday pharmaceuticals company Pfizer said that early results from the candidate it had developed suggested it may be 90 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.

Bach was asked whether the IOC may look to secure a supply of the Pfizer vaccine or any other which is approved, and though he stressed that the most vulnerable should take priority, he left the possibility open.

“We are in contact with the World Health Organisation, and with a number of manufacturers to be informed of what is happening in this respect,” he said at a press conference following Wednesday’s IOC executive board meeting.

“There are a number of different options under consideration about how vaccines can be made available, but first of all the first wave of vaccination must be for the people in need, for the high-risk groups, for the nurses, for doctors and everybody who is keeping our societies alive.

“In this context we will have further discussions with all the experts, the manufacturers, with the governments, with the health authorities to see how, with respect to vaccinations, we can ensure the safe environment in the best possible way for everybody in Tokyo.”

Socially-distanced crowds cheer for Wataru Tanigawa of Japan at last weekend's gymnastics event in Tokyo
Socially-distanced crowds cheer for Wataru Tanigawa of Japan at last weekend’s gymnastics event in Tokyo (Hiro Komae/AP)

Asked whether the promising news concerning a vaccine increased his confidence that the staging of the Games could take place in almost ‘normal’ circumstances, he added: “I am sorry I will not be able to give you the exact number of spectators, but having seen now the different number of test events in Japan I think we can become more and more confident we will have a reasonable number of spectators at the Olympic venues.

“How many and under which conditions of course depends very much on future developments.”

Bach gave a “perfect 10” to the hosting of an international gymnastics competition in Tokyo last weekend, the first multinational sporting event held in Japan since the postponement of the Games.

The event featured 30 athletes from Japan, Russia, the United States and China.

Asked whether cancellation would even be discussed during his upcoming visit to Tokyo, Bach replied simply: “No.”

The #IOCEB today agreed to increase the budget of our Olympic Solidarity programme for the period 2021 to 2024 by 16 per cent. The budget for 2021-2024 will now total USD 590 million. – IOC President Bach pic.twitter.com/xIaXAIGXFu

— Christian Klaue (@ChKlaue) November 11, 2020

The executive board also approved a 16 per cent increase to the Olympic Solidarity fund for national Olympic committees and athletes for the 2021-24 cycle, rising to 590 million US dollars (£446.6m).

Within that, there was a 25 per cent increase in direct athlete support, to 160m US dollars (£121.1m).

The IOC also said its investigation into allegations of political interference by the Belarusian national Olympic committee towards athletes was continuing.

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