First Covid-19 case discovered in Tokyo Olympic Village

Tokyo Olympics organizers on Saturday reported the first case of COVID-19 in the athletes’ village, along with 14 other new cases linked to the Games starting next week, raising new doubts about promises of a “safe and sure” event.

The latest cases of COVID-19 are a blow to local organizers and the International Olympic Committee, who have insisted the Games will not become a super-spreading event.

Tokyo organizers confirmed that an overseas visitor working for the Olympics had tested positive in a routine checkup on Friday. The person’s nationality was not disclosed due to privacy concerns.

The other cases involved two members of the media, seven contractors and five Games personnel.

The case in the athletes’ village, a 44-acre site built on Tokyo’s waterfront, is of particular concern because the majority of the 11,000 participants will reside there.

IOC President Thomas Bach, faced with unprecedented opposition to an Olympic Games days before it begins, acknowledged the Japanese public’s concerns but urged them to welcome the athletes.

Bach said he hoped the domestic sporting success could help change the mood from what he said bordered on the aggressive to something more supportive.

“We are well aware of the skepticism some people have here in Japan. We humbly ask and invite the Japanese people to welcome and support the athletes from all over the world,” Bach told a news conference.

“We are also confident that if the Japanese people will see the Japanese athletes perform successfully in the Olympics, the attitude may become less emotional.”

Damage control

Originally intended to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Olympics have become a damage reduction exercise.

Postponed for a year due to the global pandemic, it is largely being held without spectators and under strict quarantine rules. Most athletes are starting to arrive for the Games, which run from July 23 to August 8.

The Japanese public has been wary of hosting the Games at all amid a resurgence of novel coronavirus infections and worries that an influx of visitors could create a super-spreading event, straining an already stretched medical system.

Only about 20% of the population is fully vaccinated

Although Japan has escaped the explosive outbreaks of other countries, it has recorded more than 820,000 cases and about 15,000 deaths. The number of new cases in the host city of Tokyo, which is in the fourth state of emergency over the virus, has surpassed 1,000 for four days in a row.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto also acknowledged the public’s concerns.

“I understand there are still many worrisome factors. Organizers should try to make sure people understand that these games are safe,” she told a news conference on Saturday.

So far, more than 40 people involved in the Games, including Japanese and foreigners, have tested positive for the virus.

Toshiro Muto, head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, said on Saturday that officials assumed there would be positive COVID-19 cases.

An important part of the contamination control measures is daily saliva testing of the athletes participating, as well as frequent testing of others involved in the event. Visitors’ movements must also be controlled and restricted.

But in a sign that organizers already found the rules difficult to enforce, Ugandan weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko went missing from his team’s training site in Osaka on Friday.

According to the organizers of the Games, authorities are still looking for him. According to media reports, he had left a note stating that he wanted to stay and work in Japan, as life in Uganda was difficult.


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