"We will not be seeking to gain priority access for Team TTO athletes."
This, from T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, reiterating the same position he revealed some two weeks ago on the question as to whether his organisation will be approaching the government to give Olympic-bound athletes priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Lewis confirmed for Guardain Media Sports on Wednesday that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been in regular contact with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) as the start of the premier sporting event, which was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, draws near, set to run from July 23 to August 8 in Japan.
"Last Friday, there was a consultation so its been a number of weeks now that the TTOC has focussed on logistics and all areas and aspects related to the incredibly challenging situations as it surrounds the Tokyo 2020 Games so I was very clear any consideration for priority access and a request for priority access for Team TTO was not the way we wanted to go, we meaning the TTOC not the way the IOC, was leaning and now we have the World Health Organisation (WHO) coming out and clearly communicating their thoughts on the matter so again I would have communicated clearly that the TTOC was not going to be any part of the quest for priority access for Team TTO athletes and officials," said Lewis.
Excitement is already brewing with the thought of seeing local athletes, Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year swimmer Dylan Carter and cyclists Teniel Campbell, who have already qualified for the Games, competing against the best in the world seeking podium glory.
The IOC is working with the NOCs to encourage and assist athletes, officials and stakeholders, to get vaccinated in their home countries in line with the national guidelines.
"Of course, this is part of contributing to the safe environment of the Games, so it's very important for TTOC to engage with the relevant authorities
"The reality is that we are in the final stretch for the preparation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 so that the IOC has been focussed along with two different sets of organising committees one is the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the Beijing Winter Games organising committees, that what they have been doing is focusing on a comprehensive approach to coming up with COVID-19 countermeasures as it relates to COVID-19 vaccinations.
According to Lewis, the IOC will remain focussed at this point in time to just ensuring that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 can be held safely. The head body has been focusing on a number of COVID-19 countermeasures revolving around information from WHO from within the country themselves, in this case, Tokyo and Beijing, as it relates to access into the country, personal protective equipment, testing, tracing and vaccinations.
"At this point in time, the COVID-19 countermeasures are being documented and the first version of that playbook will be shared with NOCs ahead of a chef-de mission briefing which will be conducted jointly with the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the IOC in February," advised Lewis.
"The playbook is intended to serve as an essential reference document for the planning of any COVID-19 affected operations in Tokyo and will be regularly updated over the coming months to ensure all the necessary information and requirements are available to the NOCs as they have confirmed."
The IOC, in its most recent consultation with NOCs, again reaffirmed that vaccination will not be mandatory for participation in the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. However, the vaccination of the most number of Games' participants possible will contribute in increasing the safety of the Games and according to Lewis, NOCs have been asked to play an important role at a national level.
"In respect of vaccination, a couple of weeks ago, I would have affirmed that the TTOC's position in regard of vaccines that we would be not be seeking to gain priority access for Team TTO athletes as we believe that the most vulnerable sections of society and health care workers need to be first in line. The TTOC was approached in respect of possibly writing to the government to get priority access but that wasn't the way we wanted to go."