Tokyo 2020

In the soup for sightseeing

Two Georgian judo medallists sent home for breaching safety rules

TOKYO • Two judo silver medallists from Georgia were stripped of their Tokyo 2020 accreditation for breaking coronavirus rules by leaving the Olympic Village, an official from their National Olympic Committee (NOC) said yesterday.

It is the first case since the Games began on July 23 of athletes being punished for not following the strict anti-infection rules, which forbid team members from leaving their accommodation except to train and compete.

Vazha Margvelashvili, 27 and Lasha Shavdatuashvili, 29, ventured out of the compound to meet "one of their good acquaintances" who lives in Japan, said a Georgian Olympic Committee official.

"When they went outside of the village, no one stopped them at the exit. So they thought that they could go outside.

"They wanted just to have a bit of open air, to relax after a tough day of competition, after a tough lockdown period."

Both athletes had been beaten to the gold medals by different Japanese judokas last week.

The official said the pair had their accreditation revoked on Friday, but that they have now left Japan to return home.

Tokyo 2020 organisers said yesterday that they had taken disciplinary action on Friday against at least one Olympic participant, without revealing how many people were involved or their identity.

"Since the accreditation has been revoked, (they) can no longer have access to Tokyo 2020 facilities," organising committee spokesman Masanori Takaya said.

"It is impermissible that a person goes out from the Olympic Village for sightseeing."

Athletes are tested daily while in Japan, where they are living in biosecure "bubble" conditions and must leave the country 48 hours after they have finished competing.

Athletes and staff who test positive for Covid-19 or are contact-traced are isolated in separate accommodation in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

So far, dozens of athletes and team staff have been quarantined at the Games, with 21 new Games-related Covid-19 cases yesterday - none are athletes - for a total of 241 infections since July 1.

There was a record high of 4,058 cases yesterday in Tokyo.

Organisers have said they are trying to improve conditions for athletes who are quarantined, following mounting complaints over a lack of air, food and basic necessities while in isolation.

Some have criticised the conditions in the current quarantine hotel, including Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs, who was quarantined early in the Games, calling them "inhumane".

Germany's independent elite athletes group Athleten Deutschland has urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act.

"It... appears... athletes who test positive have to spend their quarantine in prison-like conditions, while IOC members stay in expensive luxury hotels and are provided with high daily allowances," said Maximilian Klein, the organisation's representative for international sport policy.

Among the biggest issues are lack of fresh air and training facilities, the quality of food which Athleten Deutschland said is "neither rich nor balanced", small living quarters and an absence of basic amenities such as laundry.

"It's unfortunate for all of us but particularly also the athletes the extra measures that have to be taken in terms of isolation and we fully sympathise with everyone who's had to go through this," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

"There are certain regulations that the Japanese health authorities imposed - we can't do much about that - but there are things that can be done."

Takaya said organisers had managed to provide more space for them outside their rooms while teammates could bring food.

"The situation has been improved and we are trying to implement a more flexible approach to accommodate these positive cases," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 01, 2021, with the headline 'In the soup for sightseeing'. Subscribe