The head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics, John Coates has debunked suggestions by some scientists and doctors that a vaccine for COVID-19 is paramount to commence the games.
John Coates, an International Olympic Committee member from Australia who is a lawyer, said he had seen the opinion but was confident about the ideas and guidelines laid down by the W.H.O.
“The advice we’re getting from WHO (World Health Organization) says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine,” Coates told the Australian Associated Press. “A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided by WHO and the Japanese health authorities.”
Will COVID-19 Pandemic halt the Olympics in 2021?
On Tuesday, Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said the Olympics games in July 2021 may be postponed if the infections were not contained, not only in Japan, but globally.
“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said.
Observing Social distancing will not be possible during the Games
Coates offered no details how 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians from more than 200 nations and territories could safely enter — and exit — Japan without spreading the virus. They would be housed together in the Athletes Village.
The risk of a resurgence if the games are held is high
They would also be accompanied by thousands of staff members and coaches, and thousands of more technical officials who have to run the events. Add to this thousand of world broadcasters, who pay billions for the rights to the Olympics — a critical element, particularly if the Olympics are held with limited numbers of spectators.
Coates said a lot of work had been done since the postponement and the target was still to have 43 venues for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Coates was speaking in Australia a day after Yokokura told a video media conference of his concerns.
Devi Sridhar, a professor of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh, also said holding the Olympics may depend on finding a vaccine. The same could apply to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
$13 Billion up in the smokes
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe is also of the view that holding the games without fully getting a grip on COVID19 is tantamount to aiding a resurgence of the virus.
"We've been saying the Olympic and Paralympic Games must be held in a complete form, in that athletes and spectators can all participate safely," Abe said in parliament in response to an opposition lawmaker. "It would be impossible to hold the Games in such a complete form unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained."
Abe said that the Tokyo Olympics, formally known as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, "must be held in a way that shows the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic." He cautioned Japan to "brace for a protracted battle."
Health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, have said that the development of a vaccine for the disease is at least a year to 18 months away.
Japan has spent $13 billion on the Games, and the delay is a major blow to the country, both financially and in terms of prestige.
According to Johns Hopkins University data on Wednesday, Japan had reported about 13,700 cases of COVID-19 with 394 deaths.