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Sunday, July 25, 2021

COVID-19 cases test Olympic organisers’ vow

Two South African soccer players became the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19 while other cases connected to the Tokyo Games were confirmed.

The latest results highlight the herculean task organisers face to keep the virus contained while the world’s biggest sports event plays out.

The positive tests from Sunday came as some of the 11,000 athletes and thousands more team officials expected from across the globe began arriving, having travelled through a pandemic to get to Tokyo.

They’ll all now live in close quarters in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay over the next three weeks.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes passing on the virus to Japanese or other residents of the village.

But that bold statement was already being tested.

The Olympics, which were postponed for a year because of the pandemic, are set to officially open Friday and run until August 8.

The two soccer players and a team video analyst, who also tested positive, had been moved to “the Tokyo 2020 isolation facility” while the rest of the squad members and officials had also been quarantined.

Those positive tests further stoked local fears with South Africa scheduled to play against hosts Japan in their first game on Thursday.

There has already been consistent opposition from the Japanese public to hosting the Olympics during the pandemic, with fears that it could become a super-spreader event and cause a spike in infections.

Bach and the IOC have insisted it will be safe and have forged ahead against most medical advice.

Team South Africa also confirmed the coach of its rugby sevens team Neil Powell tested positive at a pre-Olympics training camp in the southern Japanese city of Kagoshima.

He is in isolation there and would miss the entire rugby competition.

Olympic organisers said that another athlete had tested positive, although they were not residing in the Olympic Village.

Meanwhile, a first IOC official has been confirmed as testing positive, when arriving at a Tokyo airport, with the governing body identifying him as Ryu Seung-min of South Korea.

He was reportedly being held in isolation, too.

Organisers say that 55 people linked to the Olympics in Japan have reported positive tests since July 1, but that figure does not include athletes or others who may have arrived for training camps but are not yet under the “jurisdiction” of the organising committee.

The British Olympic Association said six athletes and two staff in the track and field squad are isolating at the team’s pre-Olympic base in Yokohama after being deemed close contacts of a person who tested positive after their flight to Japan.

The Olympics will open under a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, with no fans allowed at any of the venues in those areas.

A few outlying venues may allow a small number of local fans, but it has effectively become a TV-only event.


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