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COVID-19: Olympics official says prioritise athletes for coronavirus jab so Games can go ahead in the summer

Olympic athletes should be given priority access to coronavirus vaccines to save the Tokyo Games from cancellation, according to a prominent International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

Sky News understands the British Olympic Association (BOA) and funding agency UK Sport have discussed how they may be able to secure 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 be at the expense of elderly or vulnerable people.

Canadian Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the IOC, is confident that the Olympics can still go ahead with global participation as long as athletes can be vaccinated beforehand.

He told Sky News: “In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that.

“It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.”

The IOC is currently considering ways to assist with the vaccination of athletes in nations where there is unlikely to be an extensive vaccination programme before the summer.

Renewed concerns have been expressed about whether the Tokyo Olympics, due to begin on 23 July – exactly a calendar year later than the original date – will take place.

Japan has kept coronavirus largely under control but there has been a spike of infections in recent weeks with the Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga poised to decide on Thursday whether to implement a new state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo.

BOA chief executive Andy Anson has said it would be a “financial nightmare” if the Games were to be cancelled any later than March because of contracts with commercial partners. But he is confident that won’t happen. Read from source….