Covid spreads inside Olympic Village as cases in Japan surge

As the Tokyo Olympics pushes on under the weight of its own inbuilt momentum, another crisis is starting to unfold for both the organisers and host country Japan.

Two athletes staying in the Olympic Village have tested positive to Covid, adding to the growing number of positive cases directly liked to the Olympics.

The two South African footballers are now in isolation but add to a growing list including a member of the IOC ‘Refugee Team’. Teenage American tennis star Coco Gauff also withdrew from the games after testing positive.

Six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after coming in close contact with an infected passenger on the trip over while the entire Australian team is locked down.

The South African soccer team is due to play hosts Japan on Thursday, one day before the official opening of the Games on Friday.

To date fifty-five cases have been linked to the Games this month, including four athletes. This latest Covid scare coincides with the case rate in Japan also surging to 1,300 cases recorded on July 15, putting further pressure on the Japanese Government and the International Olympic Committee who have made the claim this will be a Covid safe Games.

More than 18,000 participants had arrived in Japan from overseas since July 1, with the organisers conducting more than 30,000 tests.

“This is probably the most controlled population at this point in time anywhere in the world,” said Pierre Ducrey, operations director for the Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto also tried to instil confidence in the Covid protocols, saying they had “a plan in place” to respond to an outbreak in the Village.

IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi also said an uncontrolled outbreak within the athletes village was “almost impossible”.

“We know there is no such thing as zero-risk but at the same time the mingling and crossing of populations is very limited,” he said.

“With all the measures that are in place, we keep the risk to an absolute minimum level.”

Many of the Olympic athletes and other participants do not have to undergo typical quarantine requirements adding to Japanese public concern that bringing approximately 85,000 athletes, officials, media and other workers into a country with a very low vaccination rate is asking for trouble.

A watered-down Opening Ceremony will take place in front of a small crowd of government officials and VIPs on Friday, with only around 50 athletes expected to march, a tenth of the normal delegation.