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USOPC to require vaccinations for Winter Olympics

(Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committee announced Wednesday that athletes trying to make the Winter Olympics will have to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote that beginning Nov. 1, the USOPC will be requiring staff, athletes and others using their training centers and other USOPC facilities to be fully vaccinated.

“The stark reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” Hirshland wrote. “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes.”

“This requirement will also apply to our full Team USA delegation at future Olympic and Paralympic Games,” she continued.

The U.S. is expected to send roughly 240 athletes to the Winter Olympics, set to begin Feb. 4.

Proof of vaccination is due by Dec. 1, according to the team website. Athletes who wish to apply for a medical or religious exemption will have to go through a standard process.

The rule represents a sharp contrast to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While the International Olympic Committee has been encouraging vaccines, they were not required for the Summer Games. The USOPC and most other national Olympic committees had a similar policy.

Roughly 83 percent of the more than 600 American athletes in Tokyo were vaccinated, according to the USOPC’s final count. The IOC believes roughly 85 percent of all athletes in the Olympic village were vaccinated.