Tokyo Olympics crisis: First competitors contract COVID-19 as pressure mounts on Japan PM

TOKYO Olympics organisers have been dealt another blow after confirmation of the first COVID-19 cases among competitors based in the athletes’ village, prior to the pandemic-hit Games next week.

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Two athletes from the same country and competing in the same sport staying in the in the Harumi waterfront district tested positive for the virus, organisers said without offering additional details. today reported 10 new cases connected to the , including a third athlete not staying in the village, down from 15 new cases a day earlier.

South Africa also reported three positive cases in its soccer squad – two players and an analyst.

It was not immediately clear if those cases were identified as part of the same testing programme.

An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus on landing in Tokyo.

Japan Olympics

Liu Shiwen of the Chinese table tennis team arrives at the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan (Image: PA)

Japan Yoshihide Suga

Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga (Image: GETTY)

Ryu Seung-min, a former Olympic athlete, is double-jabbed, underlining the infection risk even from vaccinated attendees.

And on Friday it was announced a Nigerian delegate to the Olympics had become the first visitor to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19, broadcaster TV Asahi said on Friday.

The new infections are testing the layered testing regime designed to ensure Covid cases are quickly caught and isolated. Proponents argue that the growing number of cases underscores the strength of the testing system.

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Belgian athlete Camille Laus

Belgian athlete Camille Laus during a training session (Image: GETTY)

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

Polls show many Japanese citizens oppose holding the Games with the influx of overseas visitors it entails.

Under-pressure Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is banking on successfully pulling off the Games while suppressing rising Covid cases.

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China rowers

Chinese rowers training in Japan (Image: GETTY)

Security guard Olympic Village

A security guard at the entrance to the Olympic Village (Image: GETTY)

Mr Suga has said Japan would take thorough steps to strengthen border controls against the coronavirus.

Public support for his cabinet has slid to 35.9 percent, a Kyodo poll showed on Sunday, the lowest since he replaced Shinzo Abe as the country’s leader in September.

A mere 29.4 percent think the fourth state of emergency, which began last Monday, is effective, according to the poll.

The rainy season ended in Tokyo on Friday, bringing blue skies and intense heat, another potential problem for organisers.

Coronavirus figures worldwide

Coronavirus figures worldwide (Image: Express)

The burden on participants has been increased by virus countermeasures like masking.

David Hughes, chief medical officer at the Australian Olympic Committee, said: “While we have been dealing with Covid matters, we haven’t taken our focus off the heat.”

Officials point to heat countermeasures including the distribution of drinks and salt tablets and the use of misting towers and cooling vests.

The delayed Olympics was intended to showcase a modern, diverse Japan at a time of rising regional rivalries – but the pandemic has left the country hosting a pared-down event.

Olympic Stadium Tokyo

The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo (Image: GETTY)

Athletes continue to question the compromises organisers have made, with Maya Yoshida, captain of Japan’s soccer team, calling for the decision to hold the Games behind closed doors to be reconsidered.

Postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics have little public support in Japan amid widespread fears about a further spread of the coronavirus.

Critics on Thursday submitted a petition against the Games that has garnered more than 450,000 signatures this month.

Organisers have imposed Olympics “bubbles” to prevent further transmissions of COVID-19, but medical experts are worried they might not be sufficiently tight.

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