Tokyo, Japan: Officials announced on Sunday that two athletes in the Tokyo Olympic Village tested positive for the coronavirus after a teammate was also afflicted, prompting fears of a cluster just days before the opening ceremony.
A day after a member of their entourage returned the first positive test in the facility, which will host hundreds of athletes, the first cases involving players in the Village have surfaced.
The three infections were discovered as athletes from all over the world arrived in Japan for the pandemic-delayed Olympics, which have been met with strong criticism in Japan owing to their Covid risks.
Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said the three cases “were from the same country and sport”.
They are “isolated in their rooms and Tokyo 2020 is delivering meals to them”, he said, adding that the rest of the team have also been tested. The team was not identified.
When the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games finally get off, the Olympic Village, a Tokyo complex of residences and dining rooms, will house 6,700 athletes and officials at its height.
The Tokyo Games are unpopular in Japan, where opinion polls constantly show a lack of support.
Olympic organizers have gone to great lengths to downplay the Games’ health hazards, which are being held under strict anti-coronavirus settings with competitors being tested on a daily basis.
“Mingling and crossing of populations are very limited. We keep the risk to an absolute minimum level,” Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi said on Sunday.
“We can ensure that transmission between the various groups is almost impossible.”
This month, fifty-five cases related to the Games, which begin on Friday, were detected, including four athletes.
Ryu Seung-men, a South Korean IOC member, tested positive upon arriving in Japan and was held in isolation, according to an IOC spokeswoman.
On Saturday, IOC President Thomas Bach urged Japanese fans to express support, saying he was “quite well aware of the skepticism” around the Games.
Athletes arrive to find a suffocating environment, with daily testing, social segregation, and no freedom of movement outside of the Olympic “bubble.”
They have been given 48 hours to depart Japan after their event.
Another example of the challenges was the quarantining of Australia’s whole athletics squad before departure after a member of their entourage returned an inconclusive test. The official was later found to be negative.
“We expect that there’ll be cases associated with these Games and really what’s going to matter is how we respond to that and to ensure that there’s no complacency,” said David Hughes, medical director of the Australian Olympic team.
Australia has 194 athletes in the Olympic Village, all of whom are supported by psychologists to assist them to cope with the “additional burden” of the anti-Covid measures.
One of the athletes to withdraw from the Games was Australian basketballer Liz Cambage, who cited mental health concerns, while tennis player Nick Kyrgios withdrew because of a lack of spectators.
The camp’s “buoyant” tone was tempered by concern over probable mental health issues in the odd surroundings, according to Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman.
“The mood and everything is sort of buoyant and excited to be here, and that we’re conscious of the fact that it’s like no other,” he said.
“We have to make sure that athlete, mental health, and wellbeing are at the forefront of all their thinking.”
Seiko Hashimoto, the Games’ chief executive, said on Saturday that athletes are “certainly quite concerned” about going to Japan, but promised complete transparency in the Covid instances.
While Tokyo remains under a coronavirus emergency, Japanese and Olympic officials have been compelled to defend a welcoming reception for Bach attended by 40 individuals.
With AFP inputs.