Olympic Village rocked as first two athletes test Covid positive

By: AFP      Published: 08:33 AM, 18 Jul, 2021
Olympic Village rocked as first two athletes test Covid positive
China's table tennis players arrive for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba prefecture,–AFP

Two athletes have become the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said on Sunday, just days before the pandemic-delayed Games open.

The cases will heighten concerns over the Olympics, which are facing opposition in Japan over fears they will bring new cases to a country already battling a surge in infections.

A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the Village.

The Olympic Village, a complex of apartments and dining areas, will house 6,700 athletes and officials at its peak when the 2020 Games, delayed last year over the pandemic, finally get underway.

The Tokyo Olympics, which will be held largely behind closed doors to prevent infections, are unpopular in Japan where opinion polls have consistently demonstrated a lack of support.

On Saturday, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach appealed for Japanese fans to get behind the Games, saying he was "very well aware of the scepticism" surrounding the event.

Earlier Tokyo Olympics organisers revealed the first Covid-19 case in the Games Village on Saturday as they sought to reassure competitors that the pandemic-delayed event would be safe.

Six days before the opening ceremony, organisers said an unnamed person had tested positive for coronavirus in the Village, where thousands of athletes and officials will stay during the Games.

"There was one person in the Village. That was the very first case in the Village that was reported during the screening test," Masa Takaya, spokesman for the Tokyo organising committee, told a press conference.

"Right now this person is confined to a hotel," Takaya said.

Japanese media reported that the person who had tested positive was a foreign national. The Games are facing opposition from the Japanese public, who fear a fresh wave of infections.

Seiko Hashimoto, the chief organiser of the Tokyo 2020 Games, said organisers were ready to respond swiftly if there was a wider outbreak.

"We are doing everything to prevent any Covid outbreaks. If we end up with an outbreak we will make sure we have a plan in place to respond," she said.

Hashimoto conceded that competitors at the Games, which were postponed for a year because of the pandemic, would be anxious about the virus situation -- and she vowed that organisers would not hide cases.

"Athletes who are coming to Japan are probably very worried. I understand that," she said.

"That is the reason why we need to make full disclosure." 

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said it was not yet known if the person had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

"We don't have any information on whether this person was vaccinated or not," Muto said.

He said competitors at the Games would be tested every day "so if someone tests positive, that person will be isolated immediately whether there are any close contacts or not".