Olympics-Canadians competing in Beijing must be vaccinated against COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are seen near the lit-up Olympic rings at top of the Olympic Tower, a year ahead of the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, in Beijing, China February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian athletes hoping to compete in next year's Beijing Winter Games will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees said on Wednesday.

The COC and CPC said the decision to mandate that team members must be vaccinated was made with the support of the boards of directors and athlete commissions.

"We know that the best way to keep athletes, staff, and the communities we live, train and compete in safe, is for all members of Team Canada to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19," COC Chief Executive David Shoemaker said in a news release.

Beijing 2022 hopefuls were notified by email earlier on Wednesday about the mandate and anyone with questions was told to contact the COC or their national sport organisation's medical lead for support.

Shoemaker pointed out that 840 coaches and staff travelled to the Tokyo Olympics this past summer without a positive case.

"We want to do the same for Beijing," said Shoemaker. "A fully vaccinated team following robust hygiene and physical distancing protocols is the best way to do that."

The decisions by the COC and CPC follow a similar one made last month by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

The Beijing Olympics are scheduled to take place from Feb. 4-20 followed by the Paralympic Winter Games from March 4-13.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

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