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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

IOC ready to send medical staff to Tokyo Olympics

Committee head Bach vows games will be 'organized in a safe way'

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach speaks on May 19, as Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto listens in Tokyo.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Wednesday his organization is prepared to send medical staff to the Tokyo Olympics as part of efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the outset of a three-day virtual meeting between Japan and the IOC's Coordination Commission, Bach said, "The IOC has offered to the organizing committee to have additional medical personnel...to support the medical operations and the strict implementation of COVID-19 countermeasures."

Addressing representatives of the Japanese organizing committee and the Japanese government, Bach said he expects over 80 percent of the residents of the athletes' village during the Olympics and Paralympics will be vaccinated for the virus.

While recent polls suggest the majority of the Japanese people are against holding the games this summer, Bach stressed he is confident that anti-virus measures put in place during the Olympics will enable a "safe and secure" Olympics in just over two months.

"The most important principle is very clear. The Olympic village is a safe place, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be organized in a safe way," Bach said. "We must concentrate on delivery of these safe and secure Olympic Games because the opening ceremony is only 65 days away."

The remote meeting through Friday is the 11th and final meeting between Japan and the IOC commission, which oversees preparation for the games, before the Olympics begin on July 23.

The offer to send medical officials to the Tokyo Games came amid growing public concern in Japan that hosting the global sporting event this summer could put further strains on the country's medical system.

Earlier this month, the IOC said U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. will provide vaccines for Olympic and Paralympic participants.

While the Tokyo Games approach following an unprecedented one-year delay, the country is still grappling with infections and vaccine rollout remains slow.

Tokyo and some other areas are currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency, during which people are asked not to make unnecessary outings and establishments such as those serving alcohol to close.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are expected to feature about 15,000 athletes from around the world. Athletes will be screened for the virus on a daily basis in principle and are required to minimize physical interaction with others during the games to prevent the spread of the virus.

The IOC and other organizers have already decided not to stage the games with spectators from overseas, and they are scheduled to decide next month on the number of fans from Japan admitted at venues.

The organizers will also release next month the third version of the "playbooks," or COVID-19 guidelines during the games.

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