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Will we ever see a traditional Olympic Games again? For Olympic athletes and the millions who love the spectacle, the drama, the competition, and the pageantry of the games, COVID-19 has struck an enormous blow.

And while it’s entirely possible the Olympics could adopt the current sports model of games being played in front of empty or near empty stands, Olympics officials say they prefer to return to games with both the athletes and fans together again, and they think it’s very possible.

This was the message today from Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Bach is in Tokyo, the eventual site of the games. The Associated Press reports Bach is meeting with Japanese officials for the first time since the games were postponed eight months ago.

In remarks, Bach said he encourages Olympic participants and fans traveling to Tokyo to be vaccinated, should a COVID-19 vaccine become available, to protect the Japanese public. He said there will be no mandatory rules for vaccinations, but he made it clear that the idea will be strongly pushed.

Tokyo is planning to welcome more than 11,000 athletes from around 200 countries to take part in the Games, now expected to begin in July 2021.

"We are putting really a huge tool box together in which we will put all the different measures we can imagine," Bach told reporters after meeting Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, according to news agency AFP via the BBC. "This makes us all very, very confident we can have spectators in the Olympic stadium next year."

Bach acknowledged that Olympic participants would not be a priority for a vaccine ahead of “nurses and doctors and people who keep our society alive.” He did tout new advances in rapid testing as a boost to holding the games.

Bach also told reporters that the IOC would cover at least some of the costs of vaccinations. The cost of delaying the games could be anywhere between $2 billion to $3 billion, according to the AP.

Friendship And Solidarity Competition

Bach’s optimistic words follow the so-far successful one-day gymnastics experiment in which the U.S, China, Japan, and Russia each sent delegations to Tokyo. The event featured 32 athletes, and thousands of fans were in attendance. The idea was to foster goodwill, but to also test Japan's ability to host a live event involving fans and athletes together.

What To Know If You’re Traveling To Tokyo

If you were among the thousands who planned to travel to Japan to see the games prior to the pandemic, you know the situation. But as the IOC continues to plan for 2021, the Tokyo Organizing Committee is continuing to update fans as they work toward providing a safe and secure environment.

According to the official Tokyo 2020 website, “In principle, the tickets that have been purchased will be valid for the same sessions on the new dates. Should we not be able to provide an opportunity for people to spectate the Games due to COVID-19, we will offer an additional opportunity to apply for a refund.”

Editor's Note: If you do find yourself in Japan for the Olympics (or otherwise), here are some great, free outdoor activities in and around Tokyo.

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