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Tokyo 2020 showed it is possible to keep a pandemic at bay’

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Following yesterday’s one-year anniversary of the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Dr Brian McCloskey reflects on how the Games paved the way for other major events to be organised safely during the pandemic.

Responsibility can be challenging. Just one year ago, I was heading the Independent Expert Panel of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to work alongside the Japanese authorities and design together the COVID-19 countermeasures for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We were in the middle of the pandemic, vaccination was not yet available across the globe, and we expected 11,300 athletes and tens of thousands of participants to come to Japan.

“The Olympics could be a COVID-19 'super-evolutionary event’”, “Experts say Olympics unprepared for COVID-19”, “Could the Tokyo Games lead to an 'Olympic' variant?” were global headlines ahead of the Games. As Chair of the Independent Expert Panel, I was responsible for providing the right advice to the IOC and the organisers of the Games in order to create a safe and secure event. When you read such headlines, you can clearly have doubts and become afraid for a minute, asking yourself “what if” questions. And yes, there were short moments of this, but they were only brief – because we believed in our planning. Also, we had a great partner in this task in Japan, with their experience of keeping COVID-19 cases at numbers below most of the rest of the world without resorting to lockdowns.

Today we can say: what Tokyo 2020 did, in a historic way, was to show that the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) was right. By following basic public health measures, and by layering a testing programme on top, we have shown that it is possible to keep a pandemic at bay.

As the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 reach their one-year anniversary and we are in our third summer grappling with COVID-19, we can clearly see the impact these Games had in paving the way. Major events, including the Commonwealth Games, are a regular feature in the calendar again, and no longer a matter of global concern.

The original press release can be found here :

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