IOC Head Defends Plan to Buy Chinese Vaccines for Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee defended its offer to buy Covid-19 vaccines from China after the announcement drew criticism by human rights activists.

The deal is about the safety and health of people, and “where a vaccine is being manufactured or invented” shouldn’t play a role, IOC President Thomas Bach said during a news conference Friday. Bach said Thursday that China had offered to provide vaccines to protect athletes and officials from countries that have approved Chinese vaccines, and that the IOC was ready to pay for them.

“The only question there which counts is: is it effective and does it not have any side effects?” Bach said. The IOC is taking human rights in China “very seriously” and addressing the matter “within our remit,” including monitoring supply chains and labor rights issues within host-city contracts, he said.

A decision whether to allow spectators from overseas to travel to the Tokyo Olympics in July is up to Japanese officials in the first instance, Bach said. The IOC and Japanese organizers will find “an appropriate solution at the appropriate time,” he said.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said this week that the decision on overseas fans will be taken before March 25 after reviewing the Covid-19 situation and scientific advice. The maximum number of spectators will be decided in April, based on Japanese government guidance on sporting events.

Japan will not take part in China’s offer to provide vaccines for participants in the Tokyo Games, and the vaccines have not been approved for use in Japan, the AP quoted Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa as saying on Friday.

The Japanese public has largely opposed holding the games, postponed from last July, over concern that an influx of visitors would spark Covid cases. Beijing is set to host the Winter Games next year, and China has made it clear that it plans to push ahead, with the virus largely contained within its borders.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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