According to the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a foreign athlete and five Olympic staff in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19.

The cases announced on Thursday marked the latest cases of infection among those involved in the Summer Olympics that will begin next week, and raised new concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in global sporting events.

Tokyo 2020 said in a statement on its website that six people, including several contractors, tested positive for the virus from July 13 to 14. It did not disclose any further details about the athletes or staff.

Japan’s NHK Broadcasting Company stated that the athlete is observing the 14-day quarantine period and has not relocated to the Tokyo Athlete’s Village. During the competition from July 23 to August 8, 11,000 athletes will stay there to communicate.

NHK also stated that this case marks the “first time it has been discovered that a foreign athlete staying or going to a facility managed by the organizing committee has been infected with the coronavirus”.

The news of the latest case was reported on Wednesday by the Russian RIA news agency that a masseur of the Russian women’s seven-a-side rugby team was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.

An official from the Russian team’s host town of Matsuyama in western Japan told AFP that the delegation, including 16 athletes and 10 staff, landed at Tokyo Airport on July 10 and had no relationship with AFP. Close contact. Local officials or residents.

The official said that other members of the Russian team are now in isolation at their residences, adding that if they test negative on Thursday, they can resume training as early as Friday.

COVID cluster at Olympic Hotel

Also on Wednesday, a cluster of COVID-19 was discovered in a hotel hosting members of the Brazilian Olympic team. Eight employees at a hotel in Hamamatsu City in southwestern Tokyo were found to be infected with the virus during routine screening. But a city government official told AFP that the 31-member Brazilian Olympic delegation was separated from other guests in a “bubble” in the hotel, and no infected staff had contact with the athletes.

In addition, a city government official in Kagoshima City stated that 21 members of the South African rugby team were also quarantined after being in close contact with a positive case on a flight to Japan. The official said that the team was originally scheduled to stay in the city on Wednesday, but the plan has been suspended until the health authorities provide further advice.

The spreading infection highlights the challenges faced by the organizers, although they noted that of the more than 8,000 people who have entered Japan since July 1, only a few cases have been detected so far.

Although the host city Tokyo is still in a state of emergency related to the coronavirus, which will continue until the end of the game, sports events are still being held. Stimulated by the highly contagious Delta variant, the Japanese capital is fighting a surge in COVID-19 infections. On Wednesday, it reported 1,149 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number since January.

On July 14, 2021, before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics starting on July 23, banners of Brazilian teams can be seen on the buildings in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Villages [Behrouz Mehri/AFP]
People walk through the Olympic rings installed in Nihonbashi, Tokyo on Thursday, July 15, 2021 [Hiro Komae/AP Photo]

‘History game’

The increase in cases, coupled with the slow vaccination campaign, has caused the public to lose support for the Japanese Olympics. Many people worry that the Olympics may lead to a surge in infections and an increase in new variants.

To allay these concerns, the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics banned all spectators from participating in all Olympic events held in the capital and surrounding areas, and imposed an Olympic “bubble” to limit contact between tourists and the wider Japanese public. But medical experts worry that they may not be completely nervous, because the flow of staff serving the game will create opportunities for infection.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who is attending the opening ceremony on July 23 in Japan, met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday and reiterated his commitment to take measures to avoid “any risk to the Japanese people.” .

Bach also told Suga that 85% of participating athletes and 100% of IOC members and staff were “vaccinated or immunized”. He also praised the organizers and the Japanese people for holding events during the pandemic, and told reporters after the meeting, “This will be a historic Olympics…because the Japanese people have overcome so many challenges in the past few years.”

When Japan won the right to host the Olympics in 2013, they were expected to celebrate their recovery from the deadly earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in 2011.

Japanese leaders also hope that this year’s rescheduled matches will help mark the global victory over the coronavirus, but many countries are now struggling to cope with the surge of new infections.

An Ipsos poll of 28 countries released on Tuesday showed that global interest in the Tokyo Olympics has weakened due to concerns about COVID-19 in Japan and the withdrawal of well-known athletes.

Opinion polls found that an average of 46% of people around the world are interested in the Olympics, while in Japan, 78% are opposed to continuing to host the event.


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