Olympics is hit by Covid chaos as two athletes test positive in Olympic Village

The Olympic Village has been plunged into chaos after two athletes tested positive for coronavirus in Tokyo.

Six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after being identified as close contacts of a passenger who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus on their plane to Japan, the British Olympic Association has announced.  

Olympic organisers revealed the news on Sunday, as the South African football team announced that two of their players had tested positive. 

They were named as players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi. 

Video Analyst Mario Masha from the South African squad also tested positive on arrival in Tokyo as the team prepares to face hosts Japan on Thursday. 

Mahlatsi and Monyane are the first athletes in the village to be reported positive, adding to the uncertainty around the Tokyo Olympics that are to open on Friday after being delayed a year by the pandemic.  

Fifty-five cases linked to the Games have been discovered this month, including four athletes.  

These include media, contractors and other personnel. A further 15 new cases were reported on Saturday.  

Members of Team GB check in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics amid news six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after coming into contact with a Covid-positive contact

Members of Team GB check in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics amid news six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after coming into contact with a Covid-positive contact

Members of Team GB check in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics amid news six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after coming into contact with a Covid-positive contact

Three members of the South African football squad (pictured waiting for tests) recorded positive tests

Three members of the South African football squad (pictured waiting for tests) recorded positive tests

Three members of the South African football squad (pictured waiting for tests) recorded positive tests

Announcing that six Team GB athletes and two staff members had been forced into isolation today,  a spokesperson for the British Olympic Association said: ‘The BOA can confirm that six athletes and two staff members from the athletics team, who through no fault of their own have been identified as close contacts of an individual – not from the Team GB delegation – who tested positive for COVID-19 on their inbound flight on 15 July 2021.

‘This was identified through Tokyo 2020’s reporting service and the group have since started a period of self-isolation in their rooms at the BOA’s Preparation Camp, in line with Tokyo 2020’s Playbook protocols.

‘The group all tested negative at the airport and have continued to test negative upon arrival into the country. They are under the supervision of the Team GB medical team, led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Niall Elliott.

‘The BOA continue to operate extensive COVID-19 testing protocols and mitigation measures and follow all respective health guidance from the Government of Japan, TOCOG, the IOC and our local partners in Japan.’

Team GB’s Chef de Mission, Mark England, added: ‘This is disappointing news for the athletes and staff, but we absolutely respect the protocols in place. We will offer them every support during this period and we are hopeful that they will be able resume training again soon. We kindly request respect for the privacy of the individuals concerned.’

Covid cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15 (pictured)

Covid cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15 (pictured)

Covid cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15 (pictured)

Current covid cases are the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months

Current covid cases are the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months

Current covid cases are the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months

Positive Covid cases and self-isolation per country

Positive Covid tests:

South Africa – 3

Czech Republic – 1

IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team – 2

Self isolating:

Great Britain – 8

Australia – Up to 194 (all athelets in the country’s team were forced to only isolate for a matter of hours)

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It comes after Team GB athelete Bianca Walkden, a taekwondo fighter, revealed widespread ‘paranoia’ about the virus among her fellow British sportsmen and women. 

Bianca, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Games in 2016, told The Guardian: ‘We’ve all got paranoia around covid.

‘Our masks are on all the time no matter what, everyone is doing every single safety precaution.’

Covid cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15 – the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months. 

It is not known what Covid variant the athletes have, but the rise in Japan’s case figures has been attributed to the spread of the highly-infectious Delta varien, which first originated in India.      

Announcing the Covid cases on their team in a media release from the South African Football Association on Sunday, team manager Mxolisi Sibam said: ‘We have three positive cases of COVID-19 in the camp here, two players and an official.’

‘There is daily screening….Masha and Monyane reported high temperatures and positive saliva tests, and were then taken to do the nasal test…and they unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19.  

Members of Team GB take a selfie after checking in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics

Members of Team GB take a selfie after checking in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics

Members of Team GB take a selfie after checking in at Heathrow Terminal 5 before they depart London for the Tokyo Olympics

Kamohelo Mahlatsi

Kamohelo Mahlatsi

Thabiso Monyan

Thabiso Monyan

The South African football team announced that two of their players had tested positive. They were named as players Thabiso Monyane (right) and Kamohelo Mahlatsi (left)

Former distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the chief of mission for the IOC's Refugee Olympic Team, is reported to be the IOC athlete who tested positive

Former distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the chief of mission for the IOC's Refugee Olympic Team, is reported to be the IOC athlete who tested positive

Former distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the chief of mission for the IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team, is reported to be the IOC athlete who tested positive

‘Mahlatsi is the latest player to go through the same process.’

He said as a result, the team has been quarantined until cleared to train, waiting for results from tests earlier on Sunday.

‘This unfortunate situation has made us miss our first intensive training session last night.’

It comes as a member of IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team was also confirmed to have caught the virus. South Korean IOC member Ryu Seung-min also tested positive on arrival in Japan and was placed in isolation, a spokesman for the Olympic body said.

Former distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the chief of mission for the IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team, is reported to be the IOC athlete who tested positive.

The result is understood to have been recorded before the team was to depart its Doha, Qatar, training base for Tokyo and it forced the IOC team to delay its arrival in Tokyo where the Olympics open on Friday.

The International Olympic Committee issued a statement several days ago and said only that an unnamed ‘official’ returned a positive test in the Refugee Team delegation. 

But Anne-Sophie Thilo, a press spokesperson for the team, declined to confirm the identity of the IOC Olympic team who tested positive.  

The two atletes in the Village are the first  to be reported positive, adding to the uncertainty around the Games

The two atletes in the Village are the first  to be reported positive, adding to the uncertainty around the Games

The two atletes in the Village are the first  to be reported positive, adding to the uncertainty around the Games

The Olympics are to open on Friday after being delayed a year by the pandemic (stock image)

The Olympics are to open on Friday after being delayed a year by the pandemic (stock image)

The Olympics are to open on Friday after being delayed a year by the pandemic (stock image)

The footballers and Loroupe’s positive tests are one in a long line of athletes, team officials, and others who have tested positive for Covid. 

These include a Czech Olympic team staff member who tested positive for the virus after arriving in Tokyo on a charter flight from Prague, 

On Saturday, Games chief Seiko Hashimoto admitted athletes are ‘probably very worried’ about coming to Japan, pledging full transparency over Covid cases.   

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also appealed for Japanese fans to show support, saying he was ‘very well aware of the scepticism’ surrounding the Games. 

There is widespread concern that despite increased precautions, not enough can be done to stop the estimated 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists and other workers coming into Japan from introducing fast-spreading coronavirus variants.

Japan currently has a largely unvaccinated population already that is struggling with mounting cases. 

 ‘It’s all based on the honor system, and it’s causing concern that media people and other participants may go out of their hotels to eat in Ginza,’ Takeshi Saiki, an opposition lawmaker, said of what he called Japan’s lax border controls. 

So far, the majority of Olympic athletes and other participants have been exempted from typical quarantine requirements. 

Athletes are arriving in Japan to find a restrictive environment, with daily testing, social distancing and no movement possible outside the Olympic ‘bubble’. 

They are under orders to leave Japan 48 hours after their event. 

The Japanese press is filled with reports of Olympic-related people testing positive for the coronavirus.  

‘There are big holes in the bubbles,’ said Ayaka Shiomura, another opposition lawmaker, speaking of the so-called ‘bubbles’ that are supposed to separate the Olympics’ participants from the rest of the country. 

In another example of the difficulties, Australia’s entire athletics team was quarantined before departure after a member of their entourage returned an inconclusive test. The official later tested negative. 

Currently, Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, and all of Victoria state – totaling nearly half the 25 million national population – are under stay-home orders after a flare-up of the highly infectious Delta virus strain began last month. 

Australia has 194 athletes in the Olympic Village backed by support staff including psychologists to help them deal with the ‘extra strain’ of the anti-Covid measures. 

Australian basketball star Liz Cambage was one of the athletes to pull out of the Games, citing mental health fears, while tennis player Nick Kyrgios withdrew due to the lack of fans. 

Loroupe is a two-time winner of the New York City marathon, and in the late 90s she was a force from 10,000 meters through the marathon distance. 

Declining to confirm the name, Ms Thilo said most of the team will be in Tokyo in the next few days. The 26 athletes in Doha and other officials had tested negative.

‘If everything goes right, the whole team of athletes and coaches will be in Tokyo on Tuesday,’ she said. 

The Refugee Olympic Team has been heavily promoted by the IOC, a humanitarian gesture that was introduced five years ago at the Rio Olympics in the form of a 10-member team. 

The team for Tokyo is to be twice as large and has been the focus of promotion, partially to counteract opposition in Japan to the Olympics and generate some goodwill.

The IOC would not confirm it was Loroupe that tested positive.

‘You will appreciate that we are not in a position to provide names without the approval of the individuals concerned,’ the IOC said in a statement to the AP, who reported that it was Loroupe who tested positive.

‘However, we can confirm that the team members are able to train in Qatar, and we are looking at the next steps. We will provide information once decisions have been taken.’

In a statement earlier in the week, the IOC said the official who tested positive was isolated by Qatari public authorities and is considered asymptomatic.

The Qatari government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qatar has reported over 223,000 cases of the coronavirus and nearly 600 deaths.

 

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