IOC urges Olympic teams to ask for more vaccines

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic teams were urged Friday to contact the IOC about getting more vaccines ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which will be held in the country where the coronavirus outbreak started.

The International Olympic Committee first announced a vaccine rollout program with Chinese authorities for athletes and officials in March. Chinese vaccines were bought by the IOC and also made available for delegations heading to the Tokyo Olympics from countries which had approved them for use.

In May, vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech donated doses of their product to Tokyo Olympic teams. That scheme and potentially others could be added for Beijing, the IOC said Friday.

About 100 countries are likely to compete at the Beijing Olympics, which open Feb. 4. There were 205 national teams in Tokyo. Vaccination is encouraged but not mandatory.

“I would like to encourage those National Olympic Committees who require additional vaccine doses … to inform our NOC relations department as soon as possible so that we can put the necessary arrangements in place,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Friday in a letter to Olympic teams.

Health officials in China said this week that more than 1 billion people, or 72% of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens, have been fully vaccinated.

Still, the Beijing Games are expected to be organized within the same health security limits that applied for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Bach noted the “excellent cooperation that we are enjoying with our Chinese partners and friends, as well as the relevant Chinese health authorities.”

Though Bach’s letter referred to “the athletes of these Olympic Games that will send this message of the unifying power of sport to the world.” It did not acknowledge global concerns about human rights issues in China.

Activists have tried to brand it the “Genocide Games” because of China’s detention of Muslim minority Uyghur people in prison camps in Xinjiang province.

Bach has consistently said the IOC is a politically neutral sports organization which cannot address issues that not even the United Nations has solved.

His letter was published on the day Beijing organizers unveiled their Games slogan “Together for a Shared Future.”

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