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Thomas Bach: Vaccine prospect strengthens bid to stage safe Tokyo Olympics

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine has strengthened the chances of next year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics proceeding with minimal additional disruption.

The IOC remains confident that the Games will take place in front of spectators, while it is also preparing to fund a mass vaccination programme for those intending to visit Tokyo next year.

Bach (pictured) has previously played down suggestions that staging the delayed Games depends on the production of a widely available vaccine, but acknowledged the need to assuage the fears of the city’s residents.

Bach said: ‘We see it as a sign of respect to our Japanese hosts that we want to make sure as many people as possible come to Japan on the occasion of the Games with the vaccine, and the Japanese people can feel as confident as possible in this coronavirus crisis.

‘The first priority has to be the nurses and medical doctors and people who keep our society alive. If then a vaccine should be available, then the IOC would take these costs and would collaborate with the National Olympic Committees.’

Confidence is growing that spectators will be allowed at the Games following a successful international gymnastics event last week at which thousands of fans were in attendance.

Professional baseball games in Japan have also been allowed to boost their attendances to as much as 80 per cent of capacity provided they follow a strict series of protocols.

Bach, currently on a two-day visit to Tokyo, added: ‘We have shown that even now you can organise a successful sports event [and] nine months from now we will have even more counter-measures in our toolbox than we have now.

‘There will be a more sophisticated rapid testing regime available, we see developments by the week, and we can also be more confident that there most likely will be a vaccine, so we can also put this in the toolbox.

‘So we can say that we have a toolbox that can and will ensure a safe environment, making the Games a great symbol of solidarity and humanity, a symbol of resilience and being indeed the light at the end of this coronavirus tunnel.’