A final decision on allowing spectators to attend the Games in Japan next year has not been made yet, but strides in COVID-19 vaccine development has Olympics officials hopeful

By Ashley Boucher
November 16, 2020 09:13 PM

International Olympic Committee officials are hopeful that fans will be able to cheer on athletes in person at next year's Summer Games, which were postponed earlier this year because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday that the committee is "very confident" that the Games in Tokyo, Japan, will be able to have a "reasonable number" of fans in attendance, the Washington Post reported.

Bach — who is currently in Japan to meet with leaders of the Tokyo 2020 Games organizing committee and Japanese officials — cited strides in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as successful test sporting events in Japan as factors that increased confidence for having spectators attend the Summer Games.

"In order to protect the Japanese people and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that as many as possible — Olympic participants and visitors — will arrive here vaccinated, if by then a vaccine is available," Bach said, per the Post.

"This makes us all very confident that we can have spectators in the Olympics stadium next year and that spectators will enjoy a safe environment," he added.

Bach also said that by the time the Games begin on July 23, 2021, "we will even have more COVID countermeasures in our toolbox than we have now."

IOC president Thomas Bach, Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga
| Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/getty images

Having fans attend Olympic events would of course pose a risk of spreading the contagious respiratory disease, and it would be difficult to impose strict rules on people coming in from all over the world.

The Post reported that despite Bach's confidence at the possibility of fans attending, a final decision has not been made.

"We all have to understand that the people in the world are living in uncertainty," Bach said, per the Post. "What we are saying is we are living in a dark tunnel, and the Olympic Games then next July and the Paralympic Games next August, they can be the light at the end of this tunnel."

In September, IOC Vice President John Coates said that the Summer Games next year will take place "with or without COVID."

"The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami," Coates said, referring to the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. "Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel."

There's no doubt that the Games next summer will be unlike any to come before — in June, several media outlets in Japan reported that the events will be "downsized," "simplified" or "very different."

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