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WHO, IOC unite for safe Olympics

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it will not be easy to make next year’s Tokyo Olympics a safe global gathering after the pandemic.

Speaking at a joint news conference with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for “national unity and global solidarity” to fight the coronavirus outbreak ahead of the Olympics. The Games, postponed this year, should bring athletes from more than 200 countries to Japan.

The Summer Games opening ceremony is now on July 23, 2021, after the IOC and organizers in Japan heeded WHO advice in March before agreeing a one-year delay.

“We hope Tokyo will be a place where humanity will gather with triumph against Covid,” Ghebreyesus said at WHO headquarters.

Around 11,000 athletes from more than 200 teams are due to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Most would be joined by team officials staying in an athletes village complex of 5,600 apartments at Tokyo Bay.

Health experts, including in Japan, have questioned how the 33-sport Olympics can be run before an effective global vaccine program is in place.

“Nobody can at this moment in time really give you a reliable answer on how the world will look like in July 2021,” IOC President Thomas Bach acknowledged.

“It is too early to start speculation on different scenarios and what it may need at the time to guarantee this safe environment for all participants.”

Ghebreyesus and Bach signed a renewed working agreement between the two organizations, which aims to help promote sports to governments as part of an active and healthy lifestyle.

“The Olympics or athletics or football is not just for the athletes only,” Ghebreyesus said. “It has to be a culture for everybody and it has to be everybody’s responsibility.” Bach thanked the WHO for its “most valuable advice” regarding the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

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