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Athletes must acknowledge risk of death from COVID-19 in Tokyo Games waivers

Risk of death due to COVID-19 and extreme heat are two main additions to this year's Olympic waiver

Photo by: Twitter/Saudi24N

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is requiring all athletes heading to the Tokyo Games to sign a waiver acknowledging the risk of death due to COVID-19 and extreme heat. Producing a pre-Olympics waiver is not unusual for the IOC and Games officials, but according to the team at Yahoo Sports (who obtained both the 2016 and 2021 waivers), disease and heat are new additions to this year’s form. Despite these risks, the IOC and Japanese organizers continue to work toward the July 23 start date in Tokyo. 

In a statement sent to Yahoo Sports, the IOC noted the importance of waivers ahead of the Olympics, adding that these forms have been signed by athletes at previous Games. “It is important to be transparent towards the participants regarding those measures and potential risks associated with their participation to the Games,” the statement reads. It continues, noting that athletes have been informed of the potential risks they’ll face in Tokyo, along with the measures the IOC and organizers have taken to address these concerns. 

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“By accepting the entry forms, participants provide their informed consent to attend the Games and their commitment to fully respect the measures designed to protect themselves and others,” the statement says. “This is really to provide transparency and ensures informed consent from the Games participants.”

Part of the waiver says, “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.”

Evan Dunfee
The Rio Games waiver didn’t feature any sections covering disease or extreme heat. Photo: Athletics Canada.

The team at Yahoo Sports reportedly asked an IOC spokesperson what will happen if athletes don’t sign the waiver, but they didn’t receive a straight answer. Many athletes are concerned about the new additions to the waivers, and the representatives of some individuals have addressed the issues with signing the forms, as athletes headed to Tokyo have no say in the document’s language. 

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The matter of the waiver is only the latest in a long line of issues facing the Tokyo Games, but it’s unlikely to derail the IOC’s plans, as not even widespread objections to the Olympics from Japanese citizens nor lockdowns across Japan have been able to convince organizers to call off the event.