With the opening ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympic Games set for Friday, organizers reported more than two dozen positive coronavirus tests this weekend among people who have traveled to Japan for the event, including the first cases inside the athletes’ village.
On Saturday, officials reported the first positive test — for an organizer — inside the village, where thousands of people will be staying. On Sunday, they reported that two athletes had tested positive inside the village. A third athlete tested positive while in quarantine. Other cases were reported outside the village this weekend, involving officials, contractors and members of the news media.
In a statement on Sunday, the South African Football Association confirmed that three people associated with the men’s Olympic soccer team had tested positive: one official and two players, Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi. It was unclear whether those were the cases reported by Olympic officials, who did not disclose any names or nationalities.
In addition, the British Olympics Association confirmed on Sunday that six British track and field athletes and two staff members are in quarantine at the team’s preparation camp after being identified as close contacts of an individual who tested positive on their flight to Japan. “The group all tested negative at the airport and have continued to test negative upon arrival into the country,” the association said.
Olympic officials defended their safety protocols on Sunday, saying a strict testing regimen minimized the risk of outbreaks. Hi At a news conference, Pierre Ducrey, operations director for the Olympic Games, said that since July 1, more than 18,000 participants had arrived in Japan from overseas and more than 30,000 tests had been conducted.
“This is probably the most controlled population at this point in time anywhere in the world,” he said.
Despite the measures being taken, public opinion polls in Japan have shown tepid support for going ahead with the Games, which were already postponed by a year, and a nationwide surge in cases has cast a further pall over the event. After barring international spectators in March, organizers said this month that domestic spectators would be barred as well.
Tokyo is now under its fourth state of emergency since the pandemic began, with this one set to last until after the Games end on Aug. 8. The city is seeing its highest case numbers in months, reporting more than 1,000 new infections for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday.
Fears of a new outbreak fueled by Olympic visitors have been intensified by the slow start to Japan’s inoculation campaign, with only about 20 percent of its 126 million people fully vaccinated against the virus, according to a New York Times database.
New precautionary measures continue to be announced in the days leading up to the Games. They include changes to the medal ceremony, announced last week, that require athletes to place their gold, silver or bronze medals around their own necks rather than accept them from presenters. The medals will be laid out on trays carried by the presenters for the athletes to pick up in a process designed to be completely contactless. The presenters will be fully vaccinated, officials said.
The podium will also be larger this year to ensure social distancing among medalists, who are required to stay on their own podium modules throughout the ceremony. Olympic officials had previously announced that masks would be mandatory for both medalists and presenters.
Some athletes still decided to stay away from the Games. They include two Australians: the tennis player Nick Kyrgios, who cited misgivings about the lack of spectators, and the basketball player Liz Cambage, who said she worried about the effect that being confined to the Olympic “bubble” would have on her mental health.