The Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan, has welcomed the strict COVID-19 countermeasures which are being put in place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.
During a media briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 7 May, Dr. Ryan acknowledged it is a complex event that requires a lot of logistics and risk management needed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Organising Committee of Tokyo 2020 (Tokyo 2020). He expressed his confidence that all three, along with the host country “will make the right decisions regarding how best to manage the risks, and are working extremely hard right now to ensure that those risks are well managed.”
“The issues regarding the Olympics (and Paralympics) are multi-dimensional,” Dr. Ryan said. “It is not whether we will have (the Games) or not; it is how those individual risks within that framework are being managed.”
WHO is part of the All-Partners Task Force working on the countermeasures for the Games and supported the IPC, IOC and Tokyo 2020 in launching the second editions of the Tokyo 2020 Playbooks in April. https://www.paralympic.org/tokyo-2020/playbooks The latest version of the Playbooks builds off February’s publication, providing more specific details to participants about the countermeasures that will help ensure safe and successful Games for all.
“It is our hope that the Olympics (and Paralympics) can occur,” Dr. Ryan said. “We have seen sporting events and leagues run very, very safely over the last six months, without spectators, with special bubbles and arrangements for athletes and for others – footballers and many, many others.”
He also commented on the agreement reached by the IOC, the IPC, Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan to make a decision regarding spectator capacity at the Olympic and Paralympic venues in June. It has already been decided in March not to allow entry into Japan for overseas spectators for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“Positivity rates in Japan are around 7 per cent, so Japan has experienced an increase, like everybody else, over a period of weeks and months. That has levelled off. It is not continuing to increase,” Dr. Ryan said. “It is our hope for every country that that continues on a downwards trend. And we will leave it to the authorities in Japan, who are highly competent, to decide what level of attendance could occur in the Olympics (and Paralympics).
“Some of those decisions cannot be made until closer to the event because it will depend on the epidemiologic situation at that time. So, it is not a failing at all on behalf of the organisers that they have not made certain decisions, because those decisions can only be made on the basis of the epidemiologic parameters that pertain at that time.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “I would like to thank the World Health Organisation for their support and confidence in our plans and our ability to deliver safe and secure Games.
“The Tokyo 2020 Games must be safe, not just for those who attend but also for the people of Japan, and between now and the Opening Ceremony we will continue consulting with the world’s leading experts in health and sport event delivery.
“Due to the pandemic and its disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics are needed more than ever in order to put the rights of the world’s one billion persons with disabilities firmly on the global agenda.”
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “These very encouraging remarks by the World Health Organisation are a clear signal to everyone: the athletes, the delegations from all around the globe, the Organising Committee, all the Japanese people and also the IOC and IPC. I would like to express our thanks to WHO for the cooperation and advice we have enjoyed from them since the very beginning of the pandemic and the confidence they have expressed in the planned countermeasures and the IOC. We will continue to be guided by scientific and medical expertise from around the world to organise safe Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 for everyone.”