Tokyo Olympics: ‘Very unrealistic’ Games will take place in 2021 unless coronavirus vaccine is discovered

Global health scientist has warned that it will be virtually impossible for the Olympics to be held unless a successful vaccine is found for the coronavirus pandemic

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Saturday 18 April 2020 13:30
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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games postponed due to coronavirus pandemic

It is “very unrealistic” that the Olympic Games will take place next year unless a vaccine for Covid-19 is found, a leading global health scientist has warned.

The International Olympic Committee announced last month that Tokyo 2020 will be delayed by 12 months following the outbreak of coronavirus, with Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe declaring a nationwide state of emergency at the start of April.

The global pandemic has seen almost all professional sport worldwide put on hold, with July’s 36th Olympic Games called off following lengthy discussions between the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the Japanese government, as well as help from the World Health Organisation.

But plans to stage the Games 12 months on in July 2021 could be heavily affected if there remains no known vaccine for Covid-19, with Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global health at the University of Edinburgh, warning that any vaccine will be a “gamechanger” for the Olympics.

"We're hearing from the scientists that this (vaccine) could be possible. I had thought it would be a year or a year and a half away but we're hearing possibly this could come sooner," Professor Sridhar told the BBC.

"If we do get a vaccine within the next year then actually I think that (Olympics) is realistic. The vaccine will be the game-changer - an effective, affordable, available vaccine.

"If we don't get a scientific breakthrough then I think that looks very unrealistic.

"I think they've made the right decision in saying 'we are going to put it back a year and re-evaluate'.

"And I think that is the only way you can deal with this situation - to take stock, to be hopeful, to support our scientific community and our NHS community to do what they can, because science in the long-term is going to be the way we get out of this."

The rescheduled Olympic Games are due to get underway on 23 July, though there remains complete uncertainty over how Tokyo will be prepared for the event given the absence of a successful Covid-19 vaccine.

As a result, Tokyo 2020 announced the appointment of a new task force whose main priority will be to plan for the rearranged Olympics, which will be named ‘New Launch’ and fronted by president Yoshiro Mori alongside the IOC’s coordination commission chair John Coates.

"Soon after the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games on 24 March, Tokyo 2020 established a 'New Launch' taskforce and we have been working since then to create a structure capable of overcoming these unprecedented challenges,” said former Japanese prime minister Mori on Thursday.

"We believe that today's new step is an important achievement in advancing over the coming year what we have prepared over the past five to six years. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the success of the Games."

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