April 29, 2020 / 7:10 AM / a month ago

IOC's Coates says Tokyo Games not contingent on COVID-19 vaccine

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Tokyo Olympics are not contingent on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus, International Olympic Committee member John Coates said on Wednesday.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates (L) attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files

His comments come after the president of the Japan Medical Association (JMA), a powerful physicians’ lobby, said on Tuesday it would be “difficult” for Japan to host the already postponed Games in 2021 without an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Australian Coates, the head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Olympics, said JMA president Yoshitake Yokokura’s comment was an “opinion”.

“But the advice we’re getting from WHO (the World Health Organisation) says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine,” Coates told Australian Associated Press.

“A vaccine would be nice.

“But we will just continue to be guided, as we must be, by WHO and the Japanese health authorities because in all of this, the health and wellbeing of the athletes and other participants in the Games is the number one priority.”

The Games, originally set to start in July this year, have been rescheduled for 2021, to be held over July 23 to Aug. 8.

The delay was a major blow for Japan, which has spent $13 billion on preparations.

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said in an interview published on Tuesday that the Games would be “scrapped” if they could not take place in 2021.

Japan has recorded more than 13,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 400 deaths.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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