Team GB say athletes likely to be vaccinated before Tokyo

FILE PHOTO: The Olympic torch is seen at Hibarigahara Festival Site, during the last leg of the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay, in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British athletes are likely to have COVID-19 jabs before heading to Tokyo for the Olympics and none has expressed any opposition to vaccination, Team GB head Mark England said on Thursday.

The British Olympic Association said in January athletes would not jump the queue over health workers, the elderly and vulnerable but the pace of Britain's vaccination programme has changed the debate.

Nearly half the population has had at least one dose and the government has said it plans to vaccinate all adults by the end of July.

The delayed Games start in Tokyo on July 23.

"Given the government conversation now of opening up vaccinations for people over 20, for sure it looks likely that the team will be vaccinated beforehand," England told Reuters after announcing the team's Olympic archers.

The Chef de Mission said that would have the added benefit of reassuring Japanese locals about the arriving British delegation.

Asked whether there was now a case for prioritising Olympic athletes when he came to vaccinating younger adults, he indicated that was being considered.

"We’ll see how the discussions go over the next two to three weeks and hopefully we’ll have some good news for all athletes in the coming weeks," he said.

"What I can say is that no athlete to date has come forward to say they won’t be vaccinated or they are anti-vaccination."

Some countries have already said they will vaccinate Olympic athletes as a priority while others are considering the situation.

The Australian Olympic Committee has asked its government to allow athletes to jump the queue as the country's national vaccine program struggles with roadblocks.

Britain, second in the medals table after the United States at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, is expecting to take some 370 athletes to Tokyo -- with more women than men for the first time.

England said plans remained on course, along with the team's performance aspirations, despite the continuing pandemic and Japan announcing a renewed state of emergency.

He said the emergency measures in Japan were actually more relaxed than under lockdown in Britain.

"A state of emergency in Japan really means the bars and restaurants need to shut by 8pm," he added.

"We’re confident in the ability to take a team to the Games... we’re pretty confident Team GB will compete pretty successfully."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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