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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

IOC president Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo this week as a cheerleader for next year's Olympics, saying he's "very confident" the Games will open with fans on July 23, 2021.

What he's saying: Bach issued a gentle plea to all competitors to get vaccinated if and when a vaccine is available, and added that a "reasonable number" of fans should be able to attend with or without a vaccine.

  • Worth noting: Team USA's chief medical officer, Jonathan Finnoff, doesn't think there will be enough time to vaccinate everyone, even if vaccines continue to progress. "You have to think about it as a non-vaccinated Games," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The backdrop: Japan has controlled the coronavirus relatively well, with about 1,900 deaths in a country of roughly 125 million. And in recent weeks, sporting events have successfully been held with fans in attendance.

  • A test gymnastics event was staged in Tokyo last week involving athletes from Japan, China, Russia, and the U.S. About 2,000 fans attended, and outside of competition and training, gymnasts were confined to their hotel rooms.
  • Baseball games have been held in front of thousands of fans, who are required to wear masks and banned from cheering or shouting.

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2020 - Sports

Russia banned from using name and flag at next 2 Olympics over doping charges

Vladimir Putin speaks to the IPC Governing Board prior to the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday cut Russia's ban from participation in global sports from four years to two years, but ruled that Russia will not be able to enter teams or even use its name or flag at the next two Olympics, AP reports.

Why it matters: Russia has been accused by anti-doping regulators of running of one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in the history of international sports, which at its peak was alleged to involve state authorities tampering with testing samples.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
21 mins ago - Health

Why waiving vaccine patents might be a bad idea

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It will take more than waiving patent protections for coronavirus vaccines — which the Biden administration now says it supports — to fix the gaping global divide in access.

Why it matters: Waiving drug companies' intellectual property rights risks setting a bad precedent for future investment in new drugs. And that risk may not be worth it without additional steps to meaningfully increase the availability of shots across the world.

Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus infections in the U.S. are now at their lowest levels in seven months, thanks to the vaccines.

The big picture: The vaccines are turning the tide in America's battle with the coronavirus. Deaths and serious illnesses have dropped significantly, and now cases are falling too — an important piece of protection for the future, if we can keep it up.