• Canadian Olympic Committee plans to access donated vaccines for athletes
    The Canadian Press

    Canadian Olympic Committee plans to access donated vaccines for athletes

    The Canadian Olympic Committee says it believes it will have access to donated COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and BioNTech as part of an IOC program to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Games. Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo for the Games, which open on July 23. David Shoemaker, CEO and secretary general of the COC, says his organization will work with government agencies to confirm details of the roll-out. "We were happy to learn from the IOC that Pfizer and BioNTech will donate vaccine doses for Tokyo 2020 Games participants. In Canada this represents approximately 1,100 people and will add an important layer of protection for Canadian athletes in the lead up to and during the Games," Shoemaker said in a statement. "The Olympic Games hold special meaning for the millions of Canadians who will be inspired by the resilience and determination of Canadian athletes this summer in Tokyo. As most provinces begin vaccination of the general population, this announcement will help more Canadians receive vaccinations quicker." It is unclear how many of the 1,100 people already have been vaccinated. Also, many athletes are still attempting to qualify for the Olympics. The IOC has said athletes do not have to be vaccinated for the Games. It’s the second major vaccination deal for the International Olympic Committee. An agreement was announced in March between the IOC and Olympic officials in China to buy and distribute Chinese vaccines ahead of the Tokyo Games and next year's Beijing Winter Games. The new Pfizer offer gives the IOC greater coverage worldwide ahead of Tokyo with most countries — including Canada — yet to authorize emergency use of Chinese vaccines. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. The Pfizer donation followed talks between the firm’s chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. “Following this conversation, the Japanese government had a meeting with the IOC and now the donation plan has been realized,” Pfizer said in a statement. The IOC said any vaccination program must be done “in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations.” The IOC-China vaccine deal includes two doses being made available to the general public for each dose received by an Olympic participant in that country. The Spanish Olympic Committee said Thursday the nearly 600 members of its delegation travelling to Japan will start being vaccinated with Pfizer doses this month. Other countries, including Australia, South Korea and Italy, have also been making arrangements to vaccinate their teams. — With files from The Associated Press The Canadian Press

  • Anti-Olympic petition gains tens of thousands of signatures
    The Canadian Press

    Anti-Olympic petition gains tens of thousands of signatures

    TOKYO — An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled has gained tens of thousands of signatures since being launched in Japan only days ago. The rollout of the petition comes with Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas under a state of emergency with coronavirus infections rising — particularly new variants. The state of emergency is to expire on May 11, but some reports in Japan say it is likely to be extended. The postponed Olympics are to open in just under three months on July 23. The petition is addressed to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who has tentative plans to visit Japan later this month. He is expected to meet the Olympic torch relay on May 17 in Hiroshima, and perhaps also travel to Tokyo where small anti-Olympic are protests being planned. Although 70-80% of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, there is no indication this will happen. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, and Bach have repeatedly said the games will go on as scheduled. Organizers and the IOC unveiled so-called Playbooks last week, explaining rules for athletes and others to show how the Olympics can be held in the middle of a pandemic. Several test events have been conducted in the last few days, and organizers have reported few problems. The Olympic torch relay has been crisscrossing Japan for a month. Organizers say that eight people working on the relay have tested positive for the virus. The Tokyo Olympics have become a face-saving exercise for Japan, which has officially spent $15.4 billion to prepare them. For the IOC, the Tokyo Olympics are critical since 73% of its income comes from selling television rights. Organizers say the Olympics will be “safe and secure," though his has been challenged by local medial specialists, and in an editorial last month in the British Medical Journal. It said mass events like the Olympics are “neither safe nor secure.” Organizers say they will need 10,000 health workers to support the Olympics. They have also requested 500 additional nurses — a nurses' federation balked at the request — and 200 sports medicine specialists. The petition was organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer who has run several times for Tokyo governor. It registered about 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours after being launched. “Government policies are being set with the Olympics in mind, and measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic are being neglected,” Utsunomiya told The Associated Press. “Hospital are stretched thin, and some people are dying at home.” The headline in English over the petition reads: “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives." The petition suggests the Olympics cannot be held safely and says the games have drained finances away for other needs such as the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine. Only 2% of the Japanese public have been vaccinated. Japan has attributed 10,500 deaths to the virus, good by global standards but not as good as many Asian neighbours. “In order to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in July, we must devote a large number of medical professionals, valuable resources such as medical facilities and medical equipment, and various other resources,” the petition says. In a survey conducted by the nationally circulated Mainichi newspaper, nine prefectural governors said they wanted the games cancelled or postponed again. Most of the 47 governors declined to answer, saying they had no decision-making power. ___ More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Yuri Kageyama And Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

  • Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold fighting for Olympic berth
    The Canadian Press

    Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold fighting for Olympic berth

    TORONTO — Mandy Bujold would have preferred fighting this battle in the ring. Instead, the Tokyo Olympics fate for Canada’s best boxer lies in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport after her qualifying tournament was scrapped due to the pandemic. Bujold and her lawyer, Sylvie Rodrigue, lost their appeal to the International Olympic Committee earlier this week, leaving CAS as her last chance to box in what would be her final Olympics. “I had been hopeful (about the IOC’s decision),” Bujold told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. “But they did not even address the issues in our letter, which is really unfortunate, right? You think of the Olympics and the principles of Olympism, you think about fairness, you think about sportsmanship, you think about all these things that make the Olympics what they are, and make me proud to be an Olympian and to get this response was really tough.” After a competitive year erased by COVID-19, the 11-time national flyweight champion had been confident she’d clinch a berth at the qualifying tournament this month in Buenos Aires. The event was recently cancelled amid coronavirus cases in Argentina. With no remaining international competitions for boxers from the Americas, athletes were selected on a revised ranking system using three events between 2018 and 2019 — events Bujold didn’t compete in because they conflicted with her maternity leave. Bujold’s daughter Kate was born on Nov. 5, 2018. Rodrigue calls Bujold’s situation a human rights violation and discrimination case. In the Olympic Boxing Task Force’s revised ranking system for Tokyo, “it’s like Mandy has never been ranked in the world,” Rodrigue said. “What we say is the fact that they do not accommodate pregnant or postpartum athletes by recognizing their rankings pre-pregnancy, they are violating the rights of the athletes from a gender equity and from a discrimination standpoint,” she said. The 33-year-old Bujold had planned to retire after the Tokyo Games, and had already pushed back her departure for a year after the Olympics were postponed to 2021. “I’ve been training for this opportunity, for this final moment to kind of close this chapter of my career, and now not even being able to have that opportunity, that’s really tough,” she said. Both the Canadian Olympic Committee and Boxing Canada wrote letters in support of her appeal to the IOC, Bujold said. The continental qualifiers were originally scheduled for last March, but were scrapped due to the pandemic. Adding to the frustration, the European qualifying event is still happening next month in Paris. Bujold said a European boxer with an identical story — she had a baby and took maternity leave around the same time — is just one fight from punching her ticket to Tokyo. Whatever the CAS rules, there was never a doubt Bujold would pursue this battle to the end. “I think about when I’m preparing for a fight in the ring, I make sure that I do everything possible to give myself the opportunity to win. And, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now, in a different type of fight,” she told CP. Bujold, a two-time Pan American Games champion who was previously ranked No. 2 in the Americas, would be the first Canadian woman to box in back-to-back Olympics. Her Rio Olympics ended in heartbreak due to illness; hours before her quarterfinal bout she was in hospital on an I.V. Her goal was to close her career with a medal in Tokyo. Now with everything in doubt, it’s not easy some days to go to the gym. “At the end of the day, I’m trusting Sylvie, I’m trusting her team to fight for me,” she said. "So, I need to be prepared and do my part by staying ready, and staying in shape. So until there’s a final conclusion, at the end of all of this, I need to just stay ready.” The Associated Press