The International Olympic Committee (IOC) together with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and Governments of Rwanda and Qatar have announced a partnership that will see the two countries serve as vaccination hubs for Olympic and Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo.
According to the IOC, the two vaccination hubs will allow Games participants who will be unable to be vaccinated in their home countries in advance of travelling to Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to get inoculated enroute to Japan.
“The two hubs will both offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, in line with the IOC announcement on 6 May 2021 of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE to donate doses of the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine to Games participants from National Olympic and Paralympic Committees around the world,”
“The IOC is in contact with a few NOCs whose athletes are not yet able to access vaccination programmes and who would therefore be eligible to travel to either the hub in Doha (Qatar) or Kigali (Rwanda),” an announcement from the IOC reads.
The hubs have been set up respectively by the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Rwanda Olympic Committee in relation with the relevant government and medical authorities in their regions and with Pfizer’s support. Concerned NOCs can apply for travel support from Olympic Solidarity should they need it.
The IOC NOC Relations and Olympic Solidarity Director James Macleod said the development is timely and will ensure safety of the games which have been postponed severally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot thank enough the two NOCs, their national governments and Pfizer for their generosity and great show of willingness and support,”
“The progress in preparation of work on the ground has been outstanding, and these additional vaccination opportunities are enabling the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to be safe and secure not only for the participants, but also for the Japanese people,” Macleod said.
Rwanda welcomes the move
The Minister of Sports Aurora Mimosa Munyangaju said on Twitter that the development is a welcome one and yet another important sporting milestone for the country.
“Thank you @Olympics for trusting Rwanda as a Vaccination Hub for athletes attending the #Tokyo2020 Olympic games! Welcome to Rwanda,” Munyangaju tweeted.
Felicite Rwemarika, an IOC Member in Rwanda explained the rationale behind the decision to create a hub in Rwanda ahead of the games, which the Government of Japan maintains will happen in a safe environment despite calls to postpone them due to the pandemic.
“We were also driven to join this initiative in solidarity with our friends at the Japan Olympic Committee, who have constantly supported our NOC by generously hosting training camps for our athletes,”
Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said his country was looking to play its role to ensure that the games happen.
“We are delighted to be a part of this excellent initiative and to contribute to safe Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. We are grateful to our colleagues in Japan and the IOC for their tremendous efforts in ensuring the Games can go ahead safely,”
“We all have a responsibility to repay this hard work by doing everything we can to protect the health of the Japanese people and all Games participants,” Al-Thani said.
The Doha vaccination hub comes in addition to the Qatar Olympic Committee’s confirmation that it will also host the Refugee Olympic Team in early July in a training camp in Doha prior to the team travelling to Tokyo.
The IOC said this is yet another example of the spirit of solidarity that has been witnessed between NOCs, and one that the IOC is supporting in every possible way.
From the outset, the IOC has underlined the importance of solidarity in the fight against the virus, and to see this become a reality is testament to the commitment of Olympic Movement stakeholders to making the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all involved.
Currently as many as 75 per cent of the residents of the Olympic Village are already vaccinated or have secured vaccination; and there is good reason to believe that this figure will be well over 80 per cent at the time of the Games.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and are due to start on July 23. Several athletes and concerned Japanese have called for their postponement again as the virus continues to affect the Asian nation.