Inductee to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, Dick Pound, a former vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, speaks to the media at the hall in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011. Pound believes Olympians should still be high priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, despite news that they won't be required for participation in the Tokyo Games this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Pound: Olympians should be considered for vaccines even though they’re not required

Pound: Olympians should be considered for vaccines even though they’re not required

Canadian lawyer and vocal IOC member Dick Pound believes Olympians should still be high priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, despite news they won’t be required for participation in the Tokyo Games this summer.

While Pound says the first doses need to go to frontline workers and other vulnerable people, hefeels Olympians should be in the conversation when countries sit down to determine who’s next.

“Don’t forget each country will be sending athletes into practically the epicentre of where COVID began,” Pound told The Canadian Press in an interview on Friday. “And think about protecting them the way you would if you were sending diplomats or armed forces.”

Pound pointed out that he doesn’t believe any Olympic athlete “would say ‘Me first,’ and push the 98-year-old widow out of the way.”

The International Olympic Committee and Japanese government released “Playbooks” earlier this week meant to detail how organizers plan to safely host more than 15,000 athletes amid a global pandemic, and reassure the more than 80 per cent of Japanese residents who said in recent polls the Games should be postponed or cancelled.

The Playbooks confirmed that participants won’t need to be vaccinated.

Vaccinating athletes against a virus that has killed more than 20,000 Canadians is a hot-button topic, heightened by the country’s sputtering vaccine rollout.

“I don’t think there’d be many gold medals handed out for how we’ve dealt with (the pandemic),” Pound said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee told The Canadian Press that it won’t jump the queue, and recognizes front-line workers and the vulnerable must come first. The IOC has said that vaccines are among important counter-measures.

COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker said Canada will send a team to Tokyo regardless, but told The Canadian Press he had relayed the IOC’s message about vaccines to Ottawa, “but we asked nothing of the federal government.”

Reiterating his support for vaccinating athletes, Pound said Canadians should remember that the team represents them.

“You have a certain amount of pride in how your Olympic team’s performance, and if we can minimize that risk, so much the better,” Pound said.

The Olympics open July 23 and the Paralympics a month later.

The IOC addressed Olympic athletes and their representatives earlier this week, and president Thomas Bach stressed the huge unknown still looming over the Games.

“At this moment in time, no scientist can predict the health situation in 206 national Olympic committees at the time of the Olympics,” Bach said in a video address, obtained by The Associated Press.

Bach said the IOC was learning new information each day and asked for the athletes’ patience.

Canada was a front-runner in the decision to postpone the Olympics to 2021, and the IOC and Japanese officials have insisted that the Games won’t be postponed again.

Pound said the insistence on going ahead this summer “emanates from the Japanese.

“They said we can hold the balls in the air for a year. But not longer than that. Because they’ve got commitments for all the use of the facilities and the Olympic village and all these sort of things,” Pound said. “They were able to renegotiate everything for a year, but not longer than that.”

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were also in the news this week as Thursday marked one year out from the opening ceremonies.

China’s reported human rights violations prompted a coalition of 180 human rights groups, including several Canadian organizations, to call for a boycott.

Pound is firmly against a boycott, saying that they don’t work. He feels the responsibility to pressure the Chinese government shouldn’t fall on athletes and sport.

“I have sympathy for all of the human rights groups. Don’t begrudge that. But (a boycott) is pretty parallel to what China’s doing, what (human rights groups) are complaining about,” Pound said. “In a sense you’re going to take away all the rights of Canadian athletes and put them in effective jail for a political purpose that is designed to bring about conduct change.”

Sport has a particular role to play in the world, Pound added, and even in troubled times, there’s a message that sport can deliver that others can’t.

“And if governments are mad at the Chinese, they have all kinds of ways of demonstrating that,” Pound said. “There are certainly ways to send a message to China other than destroying the lives and careers of Olympic athletes.”

Canada won’t participate in a boycott. Shoemaker and Paralympic counterpart Karen O’Neill stressed the ineffectiveness of boycotts earlier this week, as well as the importance of Canada’s participation in Beijing.

Canada joined a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Olympics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) checks Ottawa Senators' Chris Tierney (71) during third-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Dave Mercer poses in this undated handout photo. Fishing is Dave Mercer's passion. When he's not taping episodes for his fishing show, 'Dave Mercer's Facts of Fishing,' doing his podcast and weekly fishing tips, he can usually be found on the water. Mercer is also in his 11th year as an MC for the Bassmasters Classic and Elite Series and after watching Canadians Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont., capture tournament this in less than a year, Mercer is confident the third Canadian on the tour, Johnston's older brother, Cory, will win a circuit event either this year or next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Dave Mercer Outdoors Inc.
Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Meghan McPeak, left, and Randy Urban do play-by-play for the Raptors 905 team in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Canada's Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after finishing first in the final of the World Cup men's dual moguls skiing competition, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Deer Valley, Utah. Canadian moguls star Kingsbury captured a gold medal for the fifth time at the world championships today.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rick Bowmer
Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

A Canadian Premier League soccer ball is shown on a podium in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Premier League/Chant Photography *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Team Manitoba skip Jason Gunnlaugson directs his team as he plays Team Wild Card One at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Rheal Cormier, left, receives his jacket from Ferguson Jenkins during his induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Most Read