Olympic Athletes Will Have to Sign Waiver Assuming COVID-19 Risk Prior to Tokyo Games

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 28, 2021

People wearing masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus wait for traffic light to change near a banner to promote the Tokyo Olympic Games Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Athletes who compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be required to sign a waiver assuming all COVID-19 risks prior to participating.

Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports obtained a copy of the waiver and relayed an excerpt Friday:

"I agree that I participate in the Games at my own risk and own responsibility, including any impact on my participation to and/or performance in the Games, serious bodily injury or even death raised by the potential exposure to health hazards such the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious disease or extreme heat conditions while attending the Games."

As Bushnell noted, participants have signed similar waivers in the past, but this version includes verbiage to protect the International Olympic Committee and Olympic organizers in regards to COVID-19.

In a virtual forum Thursday, IOC President Anthony Bach acknowledged the waiver "is a concern for a number of you [athletes]."

Bushnell also reported athlete representatives had zero say on the waiver and don't have "bargaining power" to fight the waiver or input on "COVID-19 countermeasures" to help ward off the disease in Tokyo.

Japan's major cities are under their third state of emergency, per NPR's Anthony Kuhn, and the country just extended that through June 20. The Olympic Games are scheduled to begin July 21 with softball and soccer competitions.

Kuhn explained the COVID-19-related concerns in Japan:

"The spread in Japan of variant strains of the virus has slowed the decline in case numbers. Some hospitals remain overstretched by COVID-19 patients, and some people have died at home without being able to access medical care.

"Japan's vaccine rollout remains the slowest among developed economies with just 6% of residents having received at least one dose. Partially because Japan had relatively few COVID-19 cases compared to other countries last year, it entered into vaccine purchasing agreements with foreign vaccine-makers months later than experts say it should have."

In addition, the Japan Times reported that over 80 percent of Japanese citizens do not want the Games to be held as scheduled.

However, IOC vice president John Coates last week said the Games will go on even if there is a state of emergency during the July 21-Aug. 8 Olympics.

Stephen Wade and Yuri Kageyama of the Associated Press provided remarks from Coates last Friday:

"The advice we have from the WHO [World Health Organization] and all other scientific and medical advice that we have is that—all the measures we have outlined, all of those measures that we are undertaking are satisfactory and will ensure a safe and secure games in terms of health. And that's the case whether there is a state of emergency or not."

The opening ceremony is slated for July 23. The Tokyo Games were already postponed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.