The IOC must urgently guarantee world class Covid-19 protections for the Tokyo Olympics

World Players Association


Nyon, Switzerland, 19 May 2021

The IOC must urgently guarantee world class Covid-19 protections for the Tokyo Olympics

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) must urgently guarantee world class Covid-19 protections if the Tokyo Olympics – less than 10 weeks away – are to be safely held, the World Players Association said today.

At a minimum this requires the IOC to review and upgrade ventilation systems, reduce crowding of venues and accommodation facilities, implement much more rigorous and effective testing, supply masks to athletes, and revoke the demand that athletes sign waivers as a condition of their involvement at the Games.

Additional requirements include ensuring athletes are comprehensively insured, precise physical distancing measures for indoor areas and common spaces, and providing the necessary flexibility to complete competitions which are almost certain to be disrupted by the virus.

Without these precautions, athletes will continue to lack the trust and confidence that is essential to the safe and successful conduct of the Games.

World Players Association Executive Director Brendan Schwab, said:

"Despite having the benefit of time, knowledge and experience to prepare for this year’s Olympics, it is alarming that so close to the planned opening, the IOC’s measures fall so far behind the required standards. The IOC points to the return to play of professional team sports as one reason for hope that the Olympics can be safely held. Yet its protocols lack the same rigour and resources. Given significant concerns over new and more harmful variants and a vastly inconsistent global vaccine roll-out, the IOC must urgently guarantee world class Covid-19 protections at the Games.

The IOC and all others responsible for the Games have a fundamental duty of care to protect public and athlete health from harm, which means that no expense can be spared. Reports that up to three athletes will be sharing small rooms in poorly ventilated facilities are simply unacceptable. Harm to athlete and public health must not be collateral damage in staging the world’s largest mega-sporting event.

World Players has written to the IOC offering to help address these matters and share the significant expertise of the player associations. Heeding the lessons of that experience can be an important step towards building the trust and confidence required for a safe and successful Olympics. The time is quickly running out to do so."

World Players has analysed the proposed Covid-19 measures with public health and other experts and identified a number of areas where these fall well behind the required best practice standards. Summary below:


Required standard

IOC Athletes Playbook shortcoming

Put public health first

Have a ‘plan-B’ No plan-B No specific risk assessments

Protect athletes from risks of harm

No waivers for players Full and comprehensive insurance Athletes participate at their own risk Limited insurance coverage

Clearly defined responsibilities

Safe international travelincluding rigorous pre-departure testing; exclusive use of private transport; mandatory quarantine at hotel while maintaining access to training and gym facilities Enhanced co-ordination and protections around fixturing and player loadto ensure competition can be completed Pre-departure testing may be insufficientgiven increased transmissibility of new variants. Sport specific measures yet to be sufficiently detailed

Effective testing, tracing and isolation


Daily RT-PCR testing all athletes, which may be supplemented by lateral flow antigen tests

Tracing and screening

Provide wearable techto monitor proximity, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature and enable effective contact tracing


Designated hotel isolation facilities with a proper level of care and comfort


Insufficient detail in relation to type of testing, quality control and how the integrity of results will be ensured No remedy / grievance process outlined for athletes who may return false results

Tracing and screening

Contact tracing via a smartphone app plagued with technical problems.


Insufficient detail in relation to the designated facilities

Proper treatment & care

Clinical care

Tailored treatment and rehabilitation for positive Covid-19 cases

Mental health

Access to on the ground mental health support

Clinical care

Insufficient detail in relation to the treatment and rehabilitation measures provided to athletes

Mental health

No mention in Playbook about athlete mental health or wellbeing support

Easy access to effective PPE

Arrange for the acquisition and distribution of medically approved face masks Requires athletes to bring their own maskswhich will produce vastly different standards of protection and adversely impact the whole Games community

Safe and secure life at the Games

Accommodation, travel, distance and dining

Individual rooms, modify means of travel and assess, communicate and enforce capacity limits for all indoor environments


Review and modification of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systemsto improve air circulation and outdoor airflow

Accommodation, travel, distance and dining

Shared roomswhich significantly increase the risk of transmission to athletes and their teammates Does not specify precise physical distancing measures for dining areas, gyms, locker rooms or other common shared spaces


The review, adaptation and modification of ventilation systems not shared or communicated


The World Players Association, part of UNI Global Union, is the exclusive global voice of organized players and athletes across professional sport. It brings together 85,000 players through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries. Its role is to ensure that the voice of organized players is heard at the highest levels in the decision-making of international sport.

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