TOKYO – Two South African soccer players became the first athletes in the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19 and other cases related to the Tokyo Games were also confirmed on Sunday when the biggest sporting event is playing out.
The positive tests came when some of the 11,000 athletes and thousands more team officials arrived from around the world after traveling through a pandemic to get to Tokyo.
For the next three weeks they will all be living in a confined space in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay.
The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said last week there was “Zero” Risk of athletes passing the virus on to the Japanese or other residents of the village.
But this bold statement has already been tested.
The Olympic Games, postponed by a year due to the pandemic, are to be officially opened on Friday and run until August 8.
The two soccer players and a team video analyst who also tested positive were after. has been relocated “The isolation facility Tokyo 2020” This was announced by the South African Olympic Committee. The rest of the crew and officials had also been quarantined.
Those positive tests fueled local fears as the South African team are set to face hosts Japan in their first game on Thursday.
The Japanese public has already shown consistent opposition to hosting the Olympics during the pandemic, fearing that it could become a super-spreader event and lead to a surge in infections among Japanese.
Bach and the IOC insisted it was safe and went forward against most medical advice. The IOC sees the Games as an opportunity to promote international solidarity in troubled times, but the IOC would also lose billions of dollars in broadcast rights if the Games were completely canceled.
Also on Sunday, the South Africa team confirmed that the coach of its rugby sevens team also tested positive at a training camp before the Olympic Games in the southern Japanese city of Kagoshima. He was also isolated there and would miss the entire rugby competition, the team said.
And there were other positive tests related to the Olympics. The Olympic organizers said another athlete tested positive even though he did not live in the Olympic Village. The athlete was not named and only identified as “Non-Japanese.”
The first official on the International Olympic Committee was reported positive. He tested positive on arrival at a Tokyo airport on Saturday. The IOC confirmed the test and identified him as IOC member Ryu Seung-min from South Korea. He was also reportedly being held in isolation.
Former long-distance runner and World Cup bronze medalist Tegla Loroupe, the IOC’s head of mission for the Olympic refugee team, tested positive for COVID-19 before the team was due to leave its training base in Doha, Qatar, for Tokyo, the AP said. The team delayed its arrival in Tokyo while Loroupe is expected to stay behind, according to the two people who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge medical information.
Organizers say 55 people linked to the Olympics in Japan have reported positive tests since July 1, but that number does not include the athletes or others who may have come to training camps but not yet below the “Jurisdiction” of the organizing committee.
The British Olympic Association said six athletes and two members of the athletics roster are isolating themselves at the team’s pre-Olympic base in Yokohama after being viewed as close contacts with a person who tested positive after their flight to Japan. US tennis player Coco Gauff did not travel to Japan after a positive coronavirus test.
Tokyo reported 1,008 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the 29th straight day the cases were higher than seven days earlier. It was also the fifth straight day with more than 1,000 cases. The Olympic Games will open in a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.
No Japanese or foreign fans are allowed in any of the Olympic sports in Tokyo or the three neighboring prefectures. A few remote venues may allow for a small number of local fans, but it has effectively become a TV-only event.
About 200 protesters gathered outside Shinjuku train station in central Tokyo on Sunday and waved signs that read “No Olympics” It was the latest in a series of small protests against the Games in recent months.
“This disregards human rights and our right to life” Protester Karoi Todo told the AP. “Infections are increasing. Making the Olympics is unforgivable. “
Japanese and IOC organizers hope that rigorous testing protocols, where athletes, team officials and others are tested daily, will mitigate the risks posed by the thousands of foreigners arriving at the same time. Visiting athletes, officials and the media are informed in a “Soft quarantine” Situation and limited to the Olympic venues, village and designated hotels and are kept away from the Japanese public. The IOC also says that more than 80% of the athletes who will compete in Tokyo will be vaccinated against COVID-19.
But despite the assurances, the positive tests five days before the opening ceremony showed that the regulations aren’t – and can’t be – foolproof.
The South African team’s chief medical officer said each team member had two negative tests before traveling to Japan “In accordance with the requirements of Tokyo 2020.” They also tested negative upon arrival in Tokyo, said Dr. Phatho Zondi.
“The team officials and management have followed all relevant rules, protocols and procedures in the Olympic Playbook during the arrival routines prior to the Games and the Games.” This was announced by the South African Olympic Committee.
Coach Neil Powell and the entire South African rugby squad were held in a quarantine facility after arriving in Japan for a positive COVID test on their flight, Team South Africa said. They were allowed to leave, only Powell tested positive a few days later.
Powell was vaccinated against COVID-19 with Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine on May 24 in South Africa, team spokesman JJ Harmse told the AP.
South African Olympic and soccer officials did not immediately confirm whether the two soccer players and officials who tested positive were vaccinated, despite the fact that South Africa’s Olympic Committee said in May it would offer the J&J vaccine to all of its Olympic athletes.
The Olympics were practically over for the two soccer players and Powell before they started, as Japanese regulations required them to remain in quarantine for 14 days.
The footballers can only play if their team reaches the semi-finals.
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