New Zealand

Tokyo Olympics 2021: How Kiwi sports stars could skip the vaccine queue

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past the Olympic rings on the exterior of the National Stadium in Tokyo. Photo / AP

New Zealand sports stars could be given priority ahead of the general public for use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics beginning in July this year, the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) is encouraging all New Zealand athletes competing at the Games to be vaccinated, with the vaccine having been provisionally approved for use in New Zealand this week.

While the Tokyo Organising Committee isn’t enforcing vaccination to compete at this year’s Games, it is strongly encouraging all participating countries to do so.

“We will be encouraging all members of the New Zealand team to be vaccinated where possible and will work through the details over the coming months,” an NZOC spokesperson said.

“NZOC would like all athletes to be vaccinated, though won’t make it compulsory – [we’re] yet to have anyone openly say they won’t be vaccinated.”

When asked if athletes will get jabs before everyone else ahead of the Olympics, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it’s possible that they would be able to access them in the nationwide vaccine rollout anyway.

“The advice that I’ve had so far, is that they would need vaccinations towards the middle of the year,” Hipkins said at today’s press briefing. “We may be in a position where vaccines are widely available enough for them to get vaccines on the timetable that they would need them.

“So they would be able to access them anyway.”

If that isn’t the case, Hipkins said Kiwi Olympians might be pushed ahead in the queue.

“If we’re not in that position by the time that they need them then we would consider that in advance of that. At this point, we haven’t made decisions on that.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The NZOC says it has already been in similar discussions with the Government around the issue.

The Olympics looks set to take place as scheduled despite reports that the Games would be cancelled last month.

The local organising committee reiterated that the Olympics were going ahead and had the support of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo Olympics offered a glimpse into what the Games would look like during the pandemic in publishing the first in a series of ‘playbooks’ for international federations and technical officials, which outlines ground rules for travel, daily life and competitions during the competition.

Among the many rules for athletes include no cheering, no visiting bars and restaurants in Tokyo and limitations on partying and intimate relations in the Olympic Village.

IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi said “the health and safety of everyone at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are our top priority”.

“We each have our part to play. That’s why these playbooks have been created – with the rules that will make each and every one of us a sound, safe and active contributor to the Games. We know these Olympic Games will be different in a number of ways.

“For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require flexibility and understanding. We are providing the main directions at this stage, but naturally don’t have all the final details yet.”

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