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Prioritize Olympic athletes for COVID-19 vaccination, says Pound

2020 Olympic Games rings
2020 Olympic Games rings (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The International Olympic Committee is reportedly looking to ensure athletes will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before travelling to Tokyo for the rescheduled 2021 Summer Olympic Games in July.

IOC member Dick Pound of Canada told Sky News on Wednesday that individual countries will still be in charge of vaccinations but advocated for the prioritization of Olympic athletes in the queue to ensure the Games can go on as planned.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 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," Pound told Sky News.

"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."

Sky News writes that the British Olympic Association and UK Sport are discussing how to ensure athletes will get the vaccination before July but have stressed it would not come at the expense of vulnerable people.

Several vaccines have been developed to fight COVID-19. The Chinese Sinovac jab uses traditional methods of inactivated virus particles while the rapidly-developed mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna lead to inactivated particles being built by the vaccinated individual's body.

However, supplies and distribution have been problematic in the UK amid a surge of COVID-19 cases propelled by a new, highly infectious variant. Japan has not yet approved any of the vaccines and only expect to begin to distribute them in late February.

Last week, a new spike in COVID-19 cases in Japan led to speculation that Olympic Games attendees would be forced to quarantine for two weeks before the multi-sport event. That would force the elite men hoping to compete in the road race and time trial to make a tough decision between Tokyo and the Tour de France as the events are less than a week apart.

Mathieu van der Poel, whose Alpecin-Fenix squad earned automatic invitations to all of the WorldTour events after finishing as the best ProTeam in 2020, hopes to race the Tour de France, but said he would prioritize competing in the Olympic Games cross-country mountain bike event over his Grand Tour debut if a quarantine was required.