Paralympic and Olympic athletes in a video produced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have called on world leaders and decision-makers to ensure free and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The call comes ahead of the Olympic Winter Games (4-20 February) and Paralympic Winter Games (4-13 March) in Beijing.
Twenty Olympians and Paralympians from all corners of the world feature in the video.
These include Paralympic champions Martina Caironi (Para Athletics, Italy), Ellie Cole (Swimming Para Sport, Australia), Jakub Krako (Alpine Skiing, Slovakia), Tatyana McFadden (Para Athletics, Nordic Skiing, USA), Jitske Visser (Wheelchair Basketball, The Netherlands) and Annika Zeyen (Para Cycling, Germany).
Olympic champions Federica Pellegrini (Swimming, Italy), Seung-min Ryu (Table Tennis, South Korea), three-time Olympic medallist Pau Gasol (Basketball, Spain), two-time Olympic medallist Maja Martyna Włoszczowska (Cycling, Poland), and Humphrey Kayange (Rugby, Kenya), who are all members of the IOC Athletes’ Commission are also featured.
List also included: Olympic champions Valerie Adams (Athletics, New Zealand), Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon, UK), Osea Kolinisau (Rugby, Fiji), Gianmarco Tamberi (Athletics, Italy) and IOC President Thomas Bach, Olympic medallists Danka Bartekova (Shooting, Slovakia), PV Sindhu (Badminton, India) and Luiza Złotkowska (Speed Skating, Poland); Olympians Gaby Ahrens (Shooting, Namibia), Jonathan Borlée (Athletics, Belgium), Uche Eke (Gymnastic, Nigeria), Ann-Christin Goliaß (Sailing, Germany), Alex Hua Tian (Equestrian, China), Niluka Karunaratne (Badminton, Sri Lanka), Silvia Mittermüller (Snowboarding, Germany), Alexi Pappas (Athletics, Greece), Akiko Thomson (Swimming, Philippines) and Gabriela Trana (Athletics, Costa Rica).
In their message, the athletes stressed the importance of staying united to continue to fight the pandemic effectively: “As athletes, we can bring the world together through the power of sport. Now, more than ever, we stand united to use that power of sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Movement to help win the battle against COVID because we go faster, we aim higher, we are stronger when we stand together.”
They continued: “We have been given a way forward with a safe and effective vaccine that can help save precious lives and protect our friends… and our families. So we call on governments, foundations, philanthropists, health organisations and social businesses to join hands in giving free and equal access to the vaccine for everybody across the world to pledge our collective responsibility to protect those who are the most vulnerable, because everyone on this planet has a right to live a healthy life. We are stronger together when we stand in solidarity and care for each other.”
Vaccines form one of the main principles of hosting safe Olympic and Paralympic Games, as demonstrated during the Tokyo 2020 last summer. They will also form a key part of the COVID-19 countermeasures for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, as outlined in the Playbooks.
The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) worked closely with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to assist their athletes, officials and Games stakeholders residing in their territories to get vaccinated before Tokyo 2020, and are doing so again now before the participants travel to China in a few weeks.