Tokyo Olympics: IOC Must Review COVID-19 Protocols with Players’ Unions and Experts

The ITUC is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to fix the deeply flawed COVID-19 protocols it has published for the Tokyo Olympics, through engagement with sports players’ unions and pandemic experts.

An article published on 25 May in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reveals major deficits in the IOC plans, which expose athletes, workers, volunteers and potentially people in athletes’ home countries to avoidable risk of infection.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “An event that would bring together people from virtually every country in the world when the global pandemic is raging could only be envisaged on the basis of the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. This is not the case with the IOC’s ‘Playbook’ for the Tokyo Olympics.

“Best-practice occupational health and safety standards on ventilation, testing, sharing accommodation, prevention of transmission and other vital protections are not included in the IOC’s plans. Participation in the Olympics is the summit of their sporting experience for many thousands of athletes, and everyone involved in the Games deserves the maximum protection, not arrangements that cut corners and expose people to risks that can be prevented and avoided.”

Athletes deserve better

The ITUC is also concerned that substandard protocols at the Tokyo Games would set a dangerous precedent for other international sporting events, given the IOC’s position at the pinnacle of world sport.

“Athletes deserve better, along with all the people who make the Olympics possible. This is an issue of global importance. The IOC should be aiming for gold on prevention and also avoid the risk that people returning home from the Games may bring the virus back with them.

“The IOC should urgently engage with the players’ unions and experts in public health and occupational health and safety. The ITUC is ready to support this and will be closely monitoring the situation to see that the best practice is the bottom line,” said Sharan Burrow.

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Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for human development, unity, and freedom, but too often it instead brings harm to its athletes, fans, and communities. We exist to uncover and rectify the many abuses that exist both in and around sport. We aim to transform sports into an authentic force for good.