IOC offers to source extra medical staff to ensure safety of Tokyo Olympics
Concern growing in Japan at influx of 70,000 for Games amid fourth wave of Covid-19
A couple take selfies near the National Stadium, the main venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, on Wednesday. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has offered to source as many doctors and nurses as needed from around the globe to ensure the Tokyo Olympics is safe – and to help Japan fight a fourth wave of Covid infections.
The IOC’s pledge comes amid mounting concern in Japan that having 70,000 athletes, officials, journalists and support staff arriving into the country could act as super-spreaders for new variants and put huge pressure on medical services.
Organisers had initially planned to have about 10,000 medical staff on standby for the Games but have reduced that to 7,000 due to the need to handle ongoing outbreaks. But Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games’ executive director, promised that the IOC would now make up any shortfall as part of what he called a “formidable solidarity effort”.
“There is an immense desire to help,” he said. “The IOC is very clear that we’re going to be helping to source whatever the number is needed as established by Tokyo 2020 and sanitary authorities. As soon as they tell us ‘this is the number we need for the fever clinic’ we will source it. This is a formidable solidarity effort to render the Games safe and secure, something we have always said was our number one priority.”
Pose no risk
Dubi also praised the efforts of some countries, such as the UK, that have vowed to go further than needed to ensure their athletes pose no risk in Japan. As the Guardian revealed, there have been fears that British athletes would be put on Japan’s red list, although they now appear to have subsided following Team GB’s promise to vaccinate 100 per cent of its competitors.
“What those countries affected by the variants have pledged to do, and credit to them, is to have far more rigorous testing and extra measures in order to make sure they can have access to Japan,” he said. “They have offered a number of solutions, including 100 per cent of their delegations being vaccinated, which is a good measure for limitation of risk.”
Dubi also confirmed that the number of spectators at the Olympics would be decided by the end of the month, with current regulations allowing 50 per cent capacity or 5,000, whichever is lowest. “Do I prefer to have full stadiums with all of us shouting? Yes. But do we have a very good response if this is not the fact? Absolutely.
“What we’re doing is pretty exciting for everyone, for the audience outside that will be able to contribute inside. But also from the stadium to the outside world, linking the athletes with their families and friends, some really splendid things are coming up. So I am not worried, it is going to be quite an experience.”
On Tuesday it was confirmed that journalists would also be GPS tracked to ensure that they do not deviate from predetermined activity plans during their first 14 days in Japan. When it was pointed out to Dubi that for journalists covering news it was impossible to predict movements so precisely, he said there could be “no exceptions”.
“What we owe our Japanese hosts is an absolute respect for the playbooks,” he said. “These are designed to protect all of us, they have to be followed every single step of the way.”