Olympic pin collector among fans not allowed at Games, just over 100 days away

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are just over 100 days until the postponed Tokyo Olympics begins, and for at least one fan, the countdown is one of disappointment.

“I’ve been to 19 Olympics. I thought Tokyo would be number 20, but it’s not going to happen for me,” said Don Bigsby, the president and founder of Olympin. He’s been collecting pins — an iconic tradition of the Olympic Games — since 1980.

He said it was a letdown, but understandable.

Olympics organizers announced in late March that international spectators and most outside volunteers will not be able to attend the Games because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he supports the difficult decision.

“It’s just another expression of respecting the principles the IOC has established from the very beginning for the organization for these postponed games,” Bach said. “That means there is safety first. It’s not a decision we have taken or accepted lightly, but again it’s a necessary move, unfortunately.”

Organizers said 600,000 tickets were sold to fans outside Japan, and that refunds will be determined by Authorized Ticket Resellers.

“For me, it’s the fun of the exchange. It’s not just getting the pins,” Bigsby said. “It’s the experience and the memories of the people you meet and deal with. But — it’s a big blow to us not to be able to do it.”

Health and safety surrounding the Games

Japanese leaders and the public have expressed concerns for months about the Games, and those concerns continue as the Olympic Torch Relay is making its way through the country.

On the first day of the relay on March 25, dozens of people protested the Games, asking organizers to halt the Olympics entirely, the Associated Press reported.

Leaders in Osaka have specifically asked to not be a part of the relay route because of an increase in COVID-19 cases in their area, according to the Associated Press. While the rest of Japan has lifted its state of emergency, Osaka and two neighboring prefectures still have prevention measures in place. Olympics organizers have said they are open to rerouting or canceling legs of the relay but have not done so for that area.

Vaccinated athletes

The World Health Organization reports Japan has administered 46,000 vaccine doses. The United States has administered more than 165 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden is targeting having 200 million given in his first 100 days in office.

Dr. Steven Thomas, an infectious disease specialist in New York, says with expanded eligibility for the vaccine, it’s feasible that many U.S. athletes will be fully vaccinated by the time the Olympics begin in July.

“What does this mean more holistically in terms of the Games? As we know, unfortunately, there’s still a great deal of variance internationally in terms of who has access to vaccines and who does not. So I still think although the United States might be in a good place, it still means a bigger issue that the Japanese have to confront with in terms of hosting the Games and having athletes from over the world come in,” he said.

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