OP-Ed: The Most Important People In The World?

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Arthur Solomon

Seemingly, the cartels that control the business of sports and the moguls that run them have achieved their dream – that nothing is more important than sports and their athlete employees, both professionals and semi-professionals, AKA amateurs. 

After decades of spending millions of dollars each year on public relations programs attempting to convince publics around the world that athletes deserve to be worshiped as current day Gods of The Arenas, similar to those of Greek mythology, which  regarded Mount Olympus as  the abode of their gods,  their fantasy became  reality, aided by the International Olympic Committee and abetted by Pfizer and BioNTech, which have agreed to donate millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to athletes and officials participating in  the Tokyo 2020 Olympics beginning on July 23, 2021. (No that’s not a misprint. That’s the International Olympic Committee calendar.)

2016 Rio OlympicsThis was confirmed on May 6, 2021, when the International Olympic Committee announced, “As part of the plans to ensure safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE to donate doses of the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine to Games participants from National Olympic and Paralympic Committees around the world. National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will work with their local governments to coordinate local distribution in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations.”

This announcement raises a questions which ethicists will likely debate for years: With thousands of people around the world dying daily from Covid-19, which populations should be vaccinated first?

In my opinion, athletes are not the most important persons in the world. Doctors, who save lives, teachers, who educate children, scientists, who do research that is so important to society, and so many people in other occupations that are truly important should be prioritized before persons who jump to the front of the line just because they run fast, jump higher, can throw a discus, hit a baseball, sink a three-pointer or sack a quarterback.

The International Olympic Committee announcement said, “It is important to note that any additional doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will not be taken out of existing programmes, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world” a ridiculous statement because any dose of the vaccines given to a participant in the Olympics could have been sent to countries desperately short of vaccines for its citizens. But that’s the new Olympic PR math.

“With hundreds of millions of vaccines already administered, and hundreds of millions more to go, Pfizer is committed, together with BioNTech, to doing all we can to help end this pandemic and help return the world to a sense of normalcy,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer. “The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a grueling year of isolation and devastation. We are proud to play a role in providing vaccines to athletes and national Olympic delegations.” (Thomas Bach, president of the IOC must be toasting the Kool-Aid statement.)

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been controversy regarding athletes jumping to the front of vaccination line, and the IOC Pfizer and BioNTech decision is certain to add shelve life to the discussions among ethicists for years to come.

A Wall Street Journal May 7 article quoted Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s center on global health law, saying “It’s too little, too late.” “It’s a PR gesture and very little more. Its practical impact on the Games will be negligible.”

Coincidentally, on the same day as the International Olympic Committee announcement on May 6, a  new study by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, estimated that the number of people who have died of Covid-19 in the U.S. was more than 900,000, a number 57% higher than official figures and that there have been 6.9 million global deaths,  meaning that deaths caused by the coronavirus were more than double the results officially reported. (Of course, that number has now been surpassed.)

By donating its Covid-19 vaccine to the IOC, Pfizer and BioNTech have found a way to conduct an officially sanctioned ambush marketing program, a marketers dream, worthy of a Silver Anvil Award.

So the preparation for the games continue despite the more than 80% of Japanese citizens wanting the games cancelled or postponed, according to a poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which also called for the event to be cancelled, even though it is an official partner of the games.

Also, several health specialists said in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine that the  International Olympic Committee’s  plans to keep athletes, Olympic visitors and the Japanese population safe from the virus was inadequate.  According to government statistics, only 29.6 percent of people had received at least one inoculation across the nation by July 12.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.