12:08 GMT18 April 2021
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    The news comes during preparations for the world's largest sporting event despite being surrounded by uncertainty as a number of western nations have called for the Games to be boycotted because of the alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang - China's westernmost province.

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach confirmed on Thursday that China has offered COVID-19 vaccines to athletes at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the BBC reported.

    "The IOC will pay for these additional doses of vaccines for the Olympic and Paralympic teams. For each of these doses, the IOC will pay for two doses extra than can be made available to the population in the respective countries," he said in a statement on Thursday.

    Bach also reiterated that the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would start on 23 July.

    But the chief executive of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland, said the US team may be vaccinated because of the country's national vaccine rollout.

    "The broad base of athletes may have access to the vaccine sooner than we thought initially possible. This is great news and we're feeling really positive about the progress we're seeing here in the United States, both in its advantage to US athletes as well as international athletes living and training in our country right now," she added.

    The news comes as Japan's Olympics Minister and head of Tokyo 2020, Seiko Hashimoto, announced that the city had not yet decided whether foreigners could attend the games in Japan. A decision is expected ahead of the Olympic torch relay on 25 March, reports said.

    In a speech at the IOC's 137th Session, Bach reiterated support for rigorous testing and safety protocols for events in recent months, adding "not a single one of these events turned into a virus-spreader".

    “So we have clear and obvious proof that very big international sports events with a large number of international participants can be organised while safeguarding the health of everyone,” he added.

    The news also comes as lawmakers from a number of countries, including Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, United States and United Kingdom, have called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, citing human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other concerns, sparking anger in Beijing.

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    Tags:
    International Olympic Committee (IOC), coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccines, 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Winter Olympics
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