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Olympics Board Expected to Focus on Safety; Unlikely to Cancel Tokyo Games

2021-01-26 13:22:57
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BERLIN – The Tokyo Olympics will be at the top of the agenda when the board of directors of the International Olympic Committee meets on Wednesday – but as the board firmly supports the event, any talk of dropping it due to the COVID-19 pandemic highly unlikely.

With less than six months to go until the troubled Games begin, the board will instead address questions about, among other things, the vaccination of athletes, international visitors and spectator attendance, and safety regulations.

The Olympic body, which will meet remotely, is nonetheless in a similar situation to last March, when it had to postpone the Games by 12 months when the COVID-19 pandemic halted sport worldwide.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is sticking to his government's commitment to host the Games. Officials rejected a report in the Britain & # 39; s Times newspaper last week that Tokyo had given up hope of holding the event this year. However, opinion polls in Japan show that the public is strongly against organizing the Games during the pandemic.

The IOC maintains that there is no Plan B for Tokyo.

"Six months before the Games, the entire Olympic movement is looking forward to the opening ceremony on July 23," said IOC Chairman Thomas Bach in a message to organizers on Saturday.

He admitted it would be a "huge undertaking," but added that major sporting events are already taking place around the world without widespread vaccination against the virus yet available.

However, much of Japan is now in a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and if the Games go on they will no doubt be completely different from previous editions.

The World Health Organization said Monday that it provides advice on risk management to the IOC and the Japanese authorities on the Tokyo Olympics, but added that vaccinating health workers worldwide against COVID-19 is the top priority.

ITALY SANCTIONS THREATENED

One issue that appears to have been averted is the threat that the IOC will impose sanctions on Italy for government interference in sport in connection with a bill there, after Rome passed a decree extending the autonomy of CONI, the national Olympic committee, guarantees.

The IOC had hinted that it could ban the Italian flag and anthem from the Games in Tokyo. On Tuesday, however, the Italian government passed a decree guaranteeing CONI's autonomy, essentially ending the threat of sanctions.

The IOC is allergic to any kind of government involvement in its sports affairs, even at the national level.

Italy plans to host the 2026 Winter Olympics and such sanctions would have embarrassed the country.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; edited by Hugh Lawson)

Top photo: The Olympic symbol is being reinstalled after being removed for maintenance prior to the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Odaiba section Tuesday December 1, 2020 in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko)

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