GENEVA (AP) — China strengthened its relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday by offering to pay for vaccines for athletes as criticism of the 2022 Winter Games host country continues.
The IOC entered into a partnership with the Chinese Olympic committee to buy and provide vaccines for people taking part in the upcoming games in both Tokyo and Beijing.
“We are grateful for this offer, which is in the true Olympic spirit of solidarity,” IOC President Thomas Bach said during an online meeting that included sports leaders and the organising committees of future Olympics.
Bach said the IOC would “pay for extra doses” for Olympic and Paralympic participants.
The Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23, and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are scheduled for February. The agreement is a reputational win for China when its own Olympics have been severely criticised.
Chinese innovation to develop vaccines and help secure the health of the Tokyo Games has also drawn attention to its regional rival’s relatively slow vaccination rollout. Vaccination in Japan began in February with health workers prioritised.
“At the moment, vaccines are being inoculated to healthcare workers and from April elderly (people’s) vaccination will begin,” Tokyo Olympic Chief Executive Toshiro Muto said through
Bach said the agreement with China would help fulfil promises to Olympic organisers and competitors that the games in Tokyo will be staged safely.
He said the project was “our demonstration of solidarity with the Japanese people for whom we have such high respect and whom we hold in such high regard”.