On the Scene from Tokyo: Olympic Vaccinations Begin

(ATR) Mark Pickering reports from Tokyo on the weekly briefing by Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto...




(ATR) Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko reveals plans to vaccinate 18,000 Tokyo 2020 officials.

During her weekly press conference on Friday she reiterated that no decision has been made about whether Japanese fans will be able to attend the Olympics.

With 42 days to go until the Olympics and while the host city remains under a State of Emergency, Hashimoto made a string of announcements as the organizing committee battles to allay fears around the safety of holding the Games during the ongoing pandemic.

"Starting with today, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike announced that vaccinations will start for staff from 18 June," Hashimoto said in her opening remarks.

"For the Japanese athletes, vaccinations of 2600 athletes has started at national training center from 1 June. Vaccination is about to start for 18,000 people including referees as well as people who are interacting closely to athletes on a frequent basis.

"Volunteers and contractors will be subject to this. We plan to finish by end of June. We will wait three weeks and then issue the second dose of the vaccination before the Games starts. The IOC, IPC and government have discussed the safety of the Games, and we are confirming with the Minister and the government about expanding the vaccination roll out to domestic media and dignitaries.

"We are happy that vaccinations have started here for the general public. Medical staff will give the vaccine but we will work with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to secure sportdoctors and won’t impact local medical services and the general vaccine roll-out here. The vaccine is not an obligation. We hope everyone will receive it. I hope I will also get the vaccine as early as possible."

Hashimoto revealed that the organizing committee has been talking regularly with officials from the J League (Japan’s top football league) and its baseball counterparts,Nippon Professional Baseball. Both sports have safely had fans in attendance during the pandemic and during the current state of emergency.

"We had a meeting with J League and baseball officials, they have held a bi-weekly meeting from last year and we have started to participate as observers, collecting insight towardsgames delivery. From last year J League’s experience of holding games has been shared and we’ve gained information such as scientific analysis and we’ve held our latest roundtable today discussing countermeasures and fans being in attendance at football and baseball events."

"We have learnt that applying social distancing to seating inside stadiums and by using masks, washing your hands and by using hand sanitizer you reduce the risk to the virus by 94 percent.

"For the J League games held people who went directly home after spectating naturally were at a much lower risk than those went out together to eat after the game."

When asked about potential penalties to athletes and officials for violations of playbook Hashimoto said that is still being discussed but will be shared in an updated version of the athlete’s playbook.

"Regarding a code of conduct violation, the penalty itself, we are looking into this from many perspectives, we are hoping to release this content in a future edition of the playbook."

Hashimoto also stressed the importance of COVID-19 countermeasures and understands decisions by some municipalities to cancel their planned Tokyo 2020 live event sites.

"We respect these decisions, it’s very important to have these countermeasures in place and this is an example of that, we want a safe and secure Games and that’s our perspective and will be mindful of such changes."

Meanwhile Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters on Thursday that IOC President Thomas Bach will come to Japan in July after being unable to visit the host nation in May.

John Coates, who heads the IOC Coordination Commission overseeing the Games preparations, will arrive on Tuesday along with other officials. Most are expected to now stay in Japan through the Olympics.

Reported in Tokyo by Mark Pickering.