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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to require covid-19 vaccinations for Beijing Olympics

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Athletes who hope to compete for Team USA in the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing next year will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus under a new policy announced by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

U.S. athletes competing in Beijing must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 or obtain a medical or religious exemption by then, the organization's website states. The requirement applies to team staff members who use the organization's facilities and training centers as well. The Olympics begin Feb. 4 - less than six months after the end of the Summer Games - and the Paralympics start March 4. The new mandate extends to all who plan or hope to be part of Team USA's delegation, who must show proof of vaccination or be granted an exemption by Dec. 1. In addition, the mitigation and protocols set for Tokyo's Summer Games will remain in place.

The USOPC said in July that around 83% of the 613 American competitors in the Tokyo Olympics were vaccinated, but there was no requirement. The International Olympic Committee has not announced whether vaccination will be a requirement for non-U.S. athletes in Beijing, and its first playbook on health and other matters is expected next month.

"The stark reality is that this pandemic is far from over," Sarah Hirschland, the USOPC's CEO, wrote in a letter obtained by The Washington Post. "This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes."

Roughly 240 athletes will compete in Beijing. In the days before and during the Tokyo Games, 28 athletes tested positive; the Paralympics had 13 positive tests. Golfer Bryson DeChambeau and swimmer Michael Andrew said before the Summer Games that they had not been vaccinated and DeChambeau missed the Games, testing positive just before flying to Japan. Andrew said he previously had covid-19.

The policy goes a step beyond those of North America's major pro teams, which do not require athletes to be vaccinated to compete.

Published : September 24, 2021