A senior IOC figure has played down suggestions from the Japan Medical Association that it would be “difficult” for the Tokyo Olympics to take place without a vaccine for the coronavirus, saying they were merely “an opinion”.
John Coates, head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Olympics and a close ally of IOC president Thomas Bach, insisted that the Games going ahead were not contingent on the development of a vaccine in the next 15 months.
“I saw that opinion but the advice we’re getting from the World Health Organisation says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine,” said Coates.
“A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided, as we must be, by WHO and the Japanese health authorities because in all of this, the health and wellbeing of the athletes and other participants in the Games is the number one priority.”
However, the split over the issue between the organisers and the IOC was further emphasised when Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, admitted it will be difficult to host the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained.
When asked by an opposition lawmaker whether Tokyo could host the Games next year, Abe told Japan’s parliament: “The Olympic Games must be held in a way that shows the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Otherwise, it will be hard to hold the Games.”
The Tokyo 2020 president, Yoshiro Mori, said in an interview published on Tuesday that the Games – which had been due to start on 24 July before being pushed back a year – would be “scrapped” if they could not take place in 2021. Japan has recorded more than 13,000 Covid-19 infections and nearly 400 deaths.
Elsewhere, the global pandemic is continuing to adversely affect the sporting calendar with the Vuelta a Espana cancelling plans to stage this year’s departure in the Netherlands because of the “exceptional worldwide situation”.
While Vuelta organisers are still hopeful of the event going ahead, after the world championships and potentially as late as November according to some reports, they will now be searching for a new route.
“The departure of La Vuelta 20 from Holland was a project that had been designed as a big summer party,” La Vuelta Holanda said in a statement. “Faced with the impossibility of ensuring the planned development of the race’s official departure, with all of the required guarantees for an event of these characteristics, La Vuelta Holanda has preferred to request the official departure’s cancellation.”
The Vuelta was scheduled to take place between 14 August and 6 September, but the UCI announced earlier this month it would have to be rescheduled for later in the autumn after the Tour de France was rearranged.