Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound speaks to reporters after their foundation meeting in Montreal on May 13, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Pound thinks support would be high for making Olympians more of a vaccine priority

Pound thinks support would be high for making Olympians more of a vaccine priority

Canadian lawyer and long-standing IOC member Dick Pound said he thinks there would be strong worldwide support in making Olympians more of a priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a phone interview from Montreal, Pound said health-care workers and high-risk individuals should still be at the front of the line.

“Clearly health workers come first and the really vulnerable would be a close second,” Pound said. “Then you start triaging how you would use remaining dosages. And as I say, for the very, very small numbers involved and the very symbolic meaning of a successful Games in this context, my guess — and it’s only a guess — would be that most countries would be very much in favour of it.

“Both from a policy perspective and probably from the perspective of the public as well.”

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23. The Games were postponed last summer due to the pandemic.

Pound said when it comes to making athletes more of a vaccination priority, he thinks it’s a decision for each country planning to participate at the Games.

“I think everybody would really like there to be a worldwide success in the face of a worldwide pandemic,” he said. “So the Olympics is a wonderful case in point, if it could be made to happen.”

On Wednesday, Tokyo reported a daily record of 1,591 coronavirus cases. The Japanese government is preparing to declare a state of emergency this week to cope with a new wave of infections.

In a statement, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO/secretary-general David Shoemaker said the COC is encouraged to read about positive preliminary results around vaccines and what that means for global recovery.

“Developments regarding a vaccine are being closely monitored, as are the statements from the IOC and the organizing committee,” he said. “But they do not change our current preparation for Tokyo 2020 because we cannot assume that vaccines will be widely available, how they will be distributed or when they will be available for Canadian athletes.

“We fully expect frontline workers and vulnerable individuals will be the priority and that Team Canada’s access to vaccines will be dependent on a number of considerations, including the laws governing entry to Japan next summer.”

Over the coming weeks, Olympic officials are expected to announce plans about how to get thousands of Olympians and Paralympians into Japan. Hundreds of thousands of fans, media members, judges, officials and broadcasters are also slated to be in Tokyo this summer.

Pound, who said he’s “reasonably confident” the Summer Olympic will be held, estimated that about 11,000 athletes from over 200-plus countries would likely participate in the Games.

“You’re talking about, on average (per nation), 50 vaccinations, which would be a rounding error in almost every country in the world,” Pound told The Canadian Press. “So my guess is the authorities and the population in each country would say like, ‘Yeah if we can find some way to pull off these Games it would be a nice triumph in the face of what’s been a (long) slog. So yeah, let’s do that and see if we can’t make a good thing happen.’”

“But I don’t think the IOC or Japan or anybody can make a worldwide decision on that,” he added. “But I think if you put it out there and position it properly my guess is there’d be overwhelming support for that kind of an initiative.”

Pound said the subject is not so much about “leaping the queue,” but more about how the Games can provide a unique opportunity to send a message of resilience and triumph.

But should Olympians be a priority over others?

“I don’t know if it’s a question of should, so much as could,” Pound said. “The message of a successful Olympic Games and the opportunity to be a part of that success, I think is an important if only symbolic gesture.”

Canadian wrestler Erica Wiebe, who won gold at the 2016 Rio Games, weighed in on the subject on Twitter.

“I want to represent Canada in Tokyo,” she said in a post. “I want to continue to inspire the next generation of young boys and girls. But I need my community to be safe first and that means a measured, risk-based vaccination plan.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

With files from The Associated Press. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Not all long-term care workers have received their vaccines including a Red Deer facility

There continues to be confusion in long-term care and supportive living facilities… Continue reading

Cattle graze winter pasture in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies near Longview, Alta. on Jan. 8, 2004. Concern over the provincial government’s decision to drop a coal policy that has protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies for decades is growing among area communities. At least six cities, towns and municipal districts in southwest Alberta have now expressed concern about the decision and the fact it was made with no consultation. The latest is Longview, where mayor Kathie Wight is drafting a letter to the government opposing the move. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
More southern Alberta communities voice concern over province’s plans to expand coal

Concern over the Alberta government’s decision to drop a coal policy that… Continue reading

Some residents say there is no longer an effective Nordegg fire department to respond to emergencies in the West Country. (Contributed photo).
Some Nordegg residents worry about lack of emergency response in the West Country

The possibility of wildfires or accidents is ‘scary’ says former fire leader

(Advocate file photo).
Six idling vehicles stolen in last 48 hours: Red Deer RCMP

Red Deer RCMP said Wednesday six idling vehicles in the city were… Continue reading

FILE - Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has his final meeting of the season with the media at the NHL hockey team's practice facility in Cranberry, Pa., in this Wednesday, May 9, 2018, file photo. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, a Hall of Famer who helped lead to a pair of Stanley Cup titles, resigned abruptly on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who oversaw Cup wins, resigns

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who oversaw Cup wins, resigns

Outfielder George Springer is shown in a screengrab from a virtual news conference he took part in on Wednesday, Jan.27, 2021. Springer says he's excited to be a part of a young, talented team like the Toronto Blue Jays, a club he believes has plenty of potential. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Blue Jays introduce outfielder George Springer after signing him to six-year deal

Blue Jays introduce outfielder George Springer after signing him to six-year deal

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tries to fend off Saskatchewan Roughrider Zack Evans during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton on Thursday, June 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Ottawa Senators defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) tries to clear Vancouver Canucks centre Jay Beagle (83) from in front of Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg (1) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) knocks a rebound away from Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and defenseman John Klingberg (3) celebrates a goal by Joe Pavelski against the Nashville Predators during the third period an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 in Dallas. (AP Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)
‘Sloppy’ hockey is the name of the game early in NHL season

‘Sloppy’ hockey is the name of the game early in NHL season

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith instructs his team in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on February 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David Zalubowski
With less practice time, NHL morning skates making a comeback in 2021

With less practice time, NHL morning skates making a comeback in 2021

Most Read