Japan and the International Olympic Committee are preparing for the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on July 23, despite rising cases of COVID-19 and a slow vaccine rollout in the country. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
May 19 (UPI) -- The International Olympic Committee said it has approved medical staff for the Tokyo Olympics amid the coronavirus pandemic.
IOC chief Thomas Back said Wednesday during a virtual meeting with the president of Japan's Olympic organizing committee that he is willing to send doctors and other frontline health workers as a precaution, Kyodo News reported.
"The most important principle is very clear. The Olympic village is a safe place, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be organized in a safe way," Bach said.
"We must concentrate on delivery of these safe and secure Olympic Games because the opening ceremony is only 65 days away."
Bach's comments come as the Japanese government and Olympic officials are in agreement that the Summer Games must begin as scheduled on July 23.
Local and Olympic authorities say new policies could prevent COVID-19 from adversely impacting the Games.
"In order to have the Games succeed, we must solve different problems and speed up our preparations," said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, according to Kyodo.
In early May the IOC said U.S. firm Pfizer is to supply vaccines for Olympic and Paralympic participants. Japanese athletes are to receive inoculations in early June.
Japan is currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency. A slow vaccine rollout and a rising caseload have made the Olympics unpopular in the country. Less than 4% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to government data.
Japanese celebrities, including actor and director Takeshi Kitano has criticized the decision to not cancel the Games, according to Daily Beast on Tuesday.
"Tokyo has requested 500 doctors be on site for the Games. There won't be enough in the city for ordinary patients," Kitano said, according to the report.
"I feel sorry for the athletes and understand they've been working hard, but the Tokyo Olympics are supposedly about friendship and equality. The lives of everyone else matter too."