Olympic athletes should be given priority access to coronavirus vaccines to save the Tokyo Games from cancellation, according to a prominent International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

The Tokyo Olympiad was due to be held in July last year but is now pencilled in for this summer.

It’s understood conversations are underway between government and the British Olympic Association (BOA) about securing athletes a COVID-19 vaccination by July, when the delayed Tokyo Olympics are due to begin. But British Olympic bosses are keen to stress that this would not be at the expense of elderly or vulnerable people.

Dick Pound from Canada is the longest serving member of the IOC, and is confident that the Olympics can still go ahead with global participation as long as athletes can be vaccinated beforehand.

He said: “In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that.

“It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.”

The IOC is currently considering ways to assist with the vaccination of athletes in nations where there is unlikely to be an extensive vaccination programme before the summer.

Renewed concerns have been expressed about whether the Tokyo Olympics, due to begin on 23rd July – exactly a calendar year later than the original date – will take place.