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Athletes should have 'full confidence' in Tokyo Olympics, IOC boss says

Olympic chief Thomas Bach has told athletes they should travel to Tokyo with "full confidence" that the delayed 2020 Games will be safe for competitors and not jeopardize the health of the Japanese people.

Thomas Bach says delayed 2020 Games will be safe for competitors, Japanese people

IOC president Thomas Bach, featured in this 2020 file photo, said during a Q&A session at an online conference of the Athletes' Commission on Thursday that the safety of athletes was at the heart of planning for the July 23-Aug. 8 Tokyo Games. (Du Xiaoyi/Pool Photo via Associated Press )

Olympic chief Thomas Bach has told athletes they should travel to Tokyo with "full confidence" that the delayed 2020 Games will be safe for competitors and not jeopardize the health of the Japanese people.

Speaking in a Q&A session during an online conference of the Athletes' Commission on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President said the safety of athletes was at the heart of planning for the July 23-Aug. 8 Games.

"Tokyo is the best prepared Olympic city ever and this relates particularly to the focus they are putting on the athletes and the athletes' experience," the German told around 2,000 athletes and Olympic officials from Lausanne.

"Because of the pandemic we all know, unfortunately, the athletes' experience will be very different but what is important is the competitions can and will take place in a safe way and in full respect of the athletes.

"This should give all of us a lot of confidence that it's really about the athletes and about making the athletes feel comfortable and making the Japanese people feel comfortable.

"Come with full confidence to Tokyo and get ready," he added.

COC expresses confidence in Games

The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of easing in Japan less than two months before the Games and the government is looking to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by about three weeks to June 20.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said in a statement that it's "very mindful of the apprehension caused by the pandemic," but is confident the Olympics Games will be staged safely.

It said the committee has developed its own protocols aside from the Tokyo 2020 Playbooks to protect Team Canada and the people of Japan.

"These include a drastic reduction in Mission Team size, the elimination of Canada Olympic House, and a node system designed to minimize any unnecessary in-person contact," read the statement.

Bach urges athlete vaccinations

Concerns in Japan about variants of the novel coronavirus and a slow vaccination drive have prompted urgent calls from doctors, some high-profile business leaders and hundreds of thousands of citizens to cancel the Olympics.

Bach has previously said 80 per cent of the 10,500 athletes expected in Japan would be vaccinated and on Thursday urged Olympians to get their shots if they could.

"Take the opportunity whenever it arises to get vaccinated because this will increase the safety there for everybody, for yourself, for all your fellow athletes and for the Japanese people," he said.

"I got my two shots and I'm still in good shape."

The COC says its planning also includes the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines secured by the IOC. The committee says it expects Team Canada athletes and support staff to be "fully vaccinated" before the Olympics. 

The IOC's Chief Operating Officer Lana Haddad told the conference that a consent form athletes would be required to sign releasing Tokyo organizers from liability for COVID-19 issues was "standard practice" for "big event organizers."

With files from CBC News

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