Tokyo Olympics organisers on Saturday reported the first case of COVID-19 at the athletes’ village, along with 14 other new cases connected to the Games that begin next week, raising fresh doubts over promises of a “safe and secure” event.
The latest COVID-19 cases are a blow to the local organisers and the International Olympic Committee, who have insisted the Games will not become a super-spreader event.
The Tokyo organisers confirmed that a visitor from abroad working for the Olympics had tested positive in a routine check on Friday. The person’s nationality was not revealed due to privacy concerns.
The case at the athletes’ village, a 44-hectare site built on Tokyo’s waterfront, is particularly worrying as the majority of the 11,000 competitors will be staying there.
IOC President Thomas Bach, facing unprecedented opposition to an Olympics days before it starts, acknowledged the concerns in the Japanese public but urged them to welcome the athletes.
Bach said he was hoping domestic sporting success could help shift the mood from what he said bordered on the aggressive to something more supportive.
“We are well aware of the scepticism a number of people have here in Japan. We ask and invite the Japanese people, humbly, to welcome and support the athletes from around the world,” Bach told a news conference.
“We are also confident once the Japanese people will see the Japanese athletes successfully performing in the Olympic Games then the attitude may become less emotional.”
Originally intended to showcase Japan’s recovery from its 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Olympics has become an exercise in damage limitation.
Postponed for a year due to the global pandemic, it is being held mostly without spectators and under tight quarantine rules. Most athletes are starting to arrive for the Games, which run from July 23 through Aug. 8.