No vaccine, no play

The 31st edition of the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) will unfold in Hanoi, Vietnam this Nov. 21 to Dec. 2. 

Back in 2019, our Philippines hosted 5,600 athletes and we captured the overall title in the biennial event that featured 56 sports and 530 events. 

When the Hanoi SEA Games unfolds six months from now, an important ruling has been announced: No vaccine, no play. 

“Their policy (no vaccine, no participation) is for the good of everyone,” said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino. 

This ruling involves all SEAG athletes including the 626 Pinoy athletes that will take the 3-hour, 35-min. flight from Manila to Hanoi.

“Before we fly to Vietnam,” said Tolentino, “everyone should be vaccinated.”

Is this “no vaccine, no play” directive a good move? Absolutely.

Vietnam posts one of the lowest recorded Covid-19 cases in Asia. Since the pandemic started, our neighbor has recorded only 4,720 total cases and 37 deaths. Incredible! This, for a sizable country of 97 million people. How did Vietnam do it? Ha-ha. That’s another non-sports-page article.

But the last thing Vietnam wants is to be deluded with Covid-19 cases when tens of thousands of SEAG participants land at the Noi Bai Airport.

How about the Tokyo Olympics — just 61 days away — slated this July 23 to August 8? 

No such ruling. This, I don’t understand. There will be more than 80,000 foreign athletes, coaches and officials who will invade Japan. 

Can you imagine an outbreak in the Athlete’s Village where 11,000 athletes are housed in close quarters? One super-spreader can infect dozens of super-athletes and cause a super-storm halting the Olympics.

Plus, many sports entail close, physical contact. Boxing. Wrestling. Basketball. 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach reiterated this “no need to vaccinate” order last March, saying: “The athletes and the national Olympic committees should follow their national regulations on vaccination. This is a clear government responsibility and in this, we will not interfere.”

We will not interfere. I don’t understand.

Well, of course, I do. The issue of vaccination is a complicated matter. We cannot force someone to be vaccinated against his/her free will.

A player like Novak Djokovic, for example, who has hinted of his objection to being inoculated, can the tennis world No. 1 be forced to get vaccinated prior to his joining the Olympics?

This is a thorny issue. And this will subject the IOC to hundreds of complaints and possible legal actions.

Instead, the Olympics playbook stipulates very soft guidelines. Among the gentle rules include daily testing and barring athletes from using public transportation and disallowing them from dining at local restaurants or visiting shops.

I know this issue is complex but for the safety of all — including the Japanese people, 80% of whom are reluctant for the Games to continue — I wished they’d enforce the “no vaccine, no play” rule.

If the SEAG can do it, why can’t the Olympics?

Categorized as Olympics
John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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