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Top sports body having talks on vaccinating athletes for Tokyo Olympics

This Associated Press file photo from Feb. 18, 2021, shows the Olympic Rings on display in Tokyo. (AP-Yonhap)
This Associated Press file photo from Feb. 18, 2021, shows the Olympic Rings on display in Tokyo. (AP-Yonhap)
Working under the assumption that the postponed Tokyo Olympics will take place this summer, South Korean sports officials said Wednesday they are in talks with national health authorities on vaccinating athletes for the novel coronavirus.

According to officials, the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) believes about 1,000 athletes, coaches, officials and even training partners would be in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The Summer Games in Tokyo, postponed by a year from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled to run from July 23-Aug. 8.

Even with the pandemic still raging on, Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are determined to stage the competition this time, even if it means limiting the size of crowds at venues.

At the end of last year, 157 South Korean athletes had qualified for the Olympics. There are more spots up for grabs, since several qualifying events were also postponed from 2020, and the KSOC expects the final South Korean delegation to include about 350 athletes.

"The KSOC will want to include athletes preparing for Olympic qualifying events and their training partners too," one official said. "My understanding is that the KSOC's goal is to have the first group of athletes be vaccinated in May, after front-line medical workers get their vaccines first."

For athletes competing in Tokyo, COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory, but it is recommended if vaccines are available in athletes' home countries.

South Korea began vaccinations last Friday.

In addition to vaccinations for athletes, the KSOC will offer health and safety training programs around May and June at the National Training Center in Jincheon, 90 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)