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Olympic leaders raise hopes for safe Tokyo Games with fans as COVID-19 vaccines progress

Encouraged by progress this week in finding a COVID-19 vaccine and staging sporting events in Japan, the International Olympic Committee is getting “more and more confident” that next year’s Tokyo Olympics can have fans in the venues.

After the 2020 Summer Games were postponed by one year, the IOC has put faith in progress for rapid testing for COVID-19 and vaccines to ensure that the world’s biggest sports event can take place starting July 23.

News from pharmaceutical firm Pfizer on Monday of promising trials for its vaccine followed Tokyo hosting an international gymnastics competition on the weekend.

“Having seen now the different [event] tests in Japan, I think we can become more and more confident that we will have a reasonable number of spectators then also in the Olympic venues,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Asked if the IOC could itself try to acquire vaccine doses for Olympic participants, Bach said contact is ongoing with the World Health Organization and “a number of the manufacturers.”

“There are different options under consideration, how vaccines can be made available,” he said.

However, he said that athletes should not be a top priority worldwide.

“The first wave of vaccination … must be for the people in need, for the high-risk groups, for the nurses, for the medical doctors and for everybody who is keeping our societies alive,” Bach said.

The IOC leader said he will go to Tokyo next week for a first visit since the postponement decision was made in March, and the travelling Olympic party had begun a period of quarantine to prepare.

When asked if a contingency for cancelling the Olympics would be discussed Bach gave a firm “no” in response. 

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