The International Olympic Committee announced Thursday that it is buying COVID-19 vaccines from China so it can distribute doses to all participants of the upcoming summer and winter games.
At his announcement, IOC President Thomas Bach praised China as acting “in the true Olympic spirit of solidarity” by providing the vaccines. Additionally, for every dose given to a participant of this year’s summer games in Tokyo or next year’s winter games in Beijing, two will be given to that athlete’s home country. The IOC will foot the bill for all distribution.
The deal is mutually beneficial for both the Olympics organizers and China, which has a renewed spotlight on it because of the games. The IOC will get its Olympians vaccinated in time for the games, which were rescheduled from summer 2020, and China, facing high levels of public scrutiny for human rights abuses, can use the deal to deflect those criticisms.
Human rights groups have slammed the IOC for letting China host the games next year, citing the country’s treatment of minority Muslim Uyghurs in far west Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch says it has documented arbitrary detention, torture and mass surveillance of Uyghurs by the Chinese government. In June, an investigation by The Associated Press found that China was forcing birth control on Uyghurs as a method of population control. Earlier this month, the Chinese government tried to discredit Uyghur women’s accounts of abuse by releasing their private sexual health data.
The country is also under fire for working to topple democracy in Hong Kong and strip the region of its autonomy.
Bach, who was re-elected as IOC president this week, has fostered friendly relations with China during his tenure. Last summer, he dismissed the notion of anyone boycotting the Olympics in China.
“Boycotts and discrimination because of political background or nationality are once again a real danger,” Bach said. “A sporting boycott only punishes the athletes of the boycotting country and deprives their people of sharing in the success, pride and joy of their Olympic team.”
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