Coronavirus Global situation

First infections among Olympic athletes in Tokyo

Two competitors staying in athletes' village test positive; 10 new cases linked to Games

South Korean Olympic contestants arriving at the athletes' village in the Tokyo district of Harumi yesterday. An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea tested positive for Covid-19 on landing in Tokyo. The new infections are testing
South Korean Olympic contestants arriving at the athletes' village in the Tokyo district of Harumi yesterday. An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea tested positive for Covid-19 on landing in Tokyo. The new infections are testing the Games' layered testing regime, with a Bloomberg count tying 55 positive cases to the Tokyo Olympics so far.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO • Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics reported the first Covid-19 cases among competitors residing in the athletes' village, as its population swells ahead of the start of the Games on Friday.

Two athletes from the same country and competing in the same sport staying in the village in the Harumi waterfront district tested positive, organisers said without offering further details.

Organisers yesterday reported 10 new cases connected to the Olympics, including a third athlete not staying in the village, down from 15 new cases a day earlier.

South Africa reported three positive cases in its football squad - two players and a video analyst. It was not immediately clear if those cases were identified as part of the same testing programme.

Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said the three cases were "isolated in their rooms and Tokyo 2020 is delivering meals to them", adding that the rest of the team have also been tested.

A fourth member of the South African contingent also tested positive after arriving in Japan. A team official yesterday said rugby sevens coach Neil Powell will be a "virtual coach" as he isolates in Kagoshima, where the squad have been based since Saturday for its pre-Games training camp.

An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea also tested positive on landing in Tokyo. Mr Ryu Seung-min, a gold medallist at the 2004 Athens Games, is vaccinated and tested negative before leaving for Japan.

The 38-year-old, who was placed in isolation, said on Facebook: "I am completely asymptomatic, which probably has to do with the fact that I am vaccinated."

The new infections are testing the layered testing regime designed to ensure Covid-19 cases are quickly caught and isolated. A Bloomberg count tied 55 positive cases to the Tokyo Games so far.

But Tokyo 2020 organising chief Seiko Hashimoto has insisted there is "a plan in place to respond" to any potential outbreaks.

Strict protocols extend to arriving athletes who test negative for the virus. The British Olympic Association yesterday confirmed six British track and field athletes were isolating after they were identified as close contacts of an infected individual who was on the same flight.

The group tested negative at the airport but had been flagged through Tokyo 2020's reporting service and have been self-isolating at the team's preparation camp since last week.

Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi said yesterday: "Mingling and crossing of populations is very limited. We keep the risk to an absolute minimum level... We can ensure that transmission between the various groups is almost impossible."

Infection rates are climbing among Tokyo's general population, topping 1,000 new cases for five consecutive days.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is betting his political fortunes on successfully pulling off the Games.

Public support for his Cabinet has slid to 35.9 per cent, a Kyodo poll showed yesterday, the lowest since he took power last September. Just 29.4 per cent think the fourth state of emergency, which began on July 12, is effective.

Outside of Japan, Australia's entire athletics team for the Games had to quarantine in their rooms on Saturday at their training camp in Cairns, following a Covid-19 scare.

An official "who interacts with athletes" had a positive test. Subsequent tests, however, were negative, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed yesterday. Athletes were then cleared to compete in a warm-up event.

"My understanding is (Athletics Australia) applied an abundance of caution," said Dr David Hughes, the AOC's chief medical officer.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2021, with the headline 'First infections among Olympic athletes in Tokyo'. Subscribe