Sky News understands that discussions are underway between the government and the British Olympic Association (BOA) to guarantee athletes a COVID-19 vaccination by July, when the delayed Tokyo Olympics are due to begin. But British Olympic bosses are keen to stress that this would not come at the expense of the elderly or vulnerable.
Canadian Dick Pound, the longest-serving IOC member, believes the Olympics can continue with global participation as long as athletes can be vaccinated in advance.
He told Sky News: “In Canada, where we could have 300 or 400 hundred athletes – take 300 or 400 out of millions of vaccines to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t. do not do. think there would be some sort of public outcry about it.
“It’s a decision that every country has to make and there will be people who will say they are skipping the line, but I think it’s the most realistic way to go forward. ”
The IOC is currently exploring ways to help immunize athletes in countries where there is unlikely to be a large vaccination program before the summer.
New concerns have been expressed over whether the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to start on July 23 – exactly one calendar year after the initial date – will take place.
Japan has kept the coronavirus largely under control, but there has been a spike in infections in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set to decide on Thursday to implement a new state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo.
FOB chief executive Andy Anson said it would be a “financial nightmare” if the Games were to be canceled by March at the latest due to contracts with business partners. But he is convinced that will not happen.
“I tell the athletes’ this is moving forward,” Anson told Sky News. “You should train as hard as you can and be in the best shape you can to go out there and be a part of this amazing celebration.”
“They have to assume that this is happening and that every message is going to come but we have to get through these tough times first. ”
Anson said the FOB has spoken to the government about access to a vaccine for athletes and support staff attending the Games.
He said: “They won’t get priority access now because I think everyone – including athletes – would agree that the priority is the people who need it most; frontline workers, the elderly, those with health issues and that’s the first wave. vaccination.
“There will come a time, hopefully in late spring / summer before the Olympics, when athletes can be vaccinated.
“But we will do it when it is appropriate and when the government deems it appropriate. With UK Sport and DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), we discuss, but more on the opportune moment. ”
The IOC is modeling a number of possible scenarios for the Tokyo Games, including whether the games are played with international fans, with domestic fans only, or completely behind closed doors.
They have already announced changes, including restrictions on the Athletes’ Village, which means athletes will arrive on site five days before the scheduled competition date and must leave within 48 hours of their last event.
For Alice Dearing, 23, Britain’s top open water swimmer, the next few months will be spent blocking out the noise and focusing on qualifying for her first Olympics.
“I’m just focusing on training,” she said. “In my mind the Games are going 100%, I just want to make sure I’m on the start line so hopefully I qualify and I really think the organizers will do whatever they can. to protect us. ”
She added: “If a vaccine is available to us and no one is likely to have it, then I would have it.
“But it’s out of my hands. If I’m told it’s not available, that’s fine too. There are bigger things at risk although it’s hard to admit because for me swimming is the greatest thing in the world. But the world doesn’t revolve around me. ”