IOC official: Tokyo Olympics ‘not contingent’ on a coronavirus vaccine

·2 min read

While two top organizing officials believe that the Tokyo Olympics hinge on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, at least one International Committee Member insists that isn’t necessary.

The 2020 Summer Olympics were already rescheduled to July 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Though John Coates, an IOC member from Australia, has heard the argument that a vaccine is necessary to move forward with the games, he doesn’t think that’s the case himself.

“The advice we’re getting from [the 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 said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. “A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided by WHO and the Japanese health authorities.”

Japan Medical Association president disagrees

Coates’ comments come just one day after Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association, said he didn’t think the Olympics would be possible unless infections were under control not just in Japan, but worldwide.

“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said Tuesday.

There were more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the world — more than 1 million of which were in the United States — as of Wednesday afternoon, according to The New York Times. Japan had more than 14,500 confirmed cases and nearly 400 deaths attributed to the virus.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Many experts expect that a vaccine for the coronavirus is still a long way off, anywhere from 12 to 24 months from the start of the outbreak. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford, told Yahoo Sports in March that he didn’t think a vaccine would be available “until the fall of 2021, at the earliest.”

If the Olympics can’t take place next summer, the IOC and other officials have said it’s unlikely that the games will happen at all. The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to start on Feb. 4 in China, too, something that could be impacted by the pandemic.

“I think it’s pretty clear, though, that you couldn’t go on forever postponing an Olympic Games,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. “There comes a point where you do have to start posing questions. I hope we’re a little way off that yet.”

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