© Reuters. A woman walks past the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games sign at the main press center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 16, 2021. REUTERS / Thomas Peter
By Ritsuko Ando
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo Olympics organizers reported the first case of COVID-19 in the Athletes’ Village on Saturday, along with 14 more new cases related to the Games starting next week, raising new doubts about the Promises of a “safe and secure” emerge “event.
The recent cases are a blow to local organizers and the International Olympic Committee who have insisted the Games not become a super-spread event.
The Tokyo organizers confirmed that a visitor from abroad who worked for the Olympics had tested positive during a routine check on Friday. The nationality of the person was not disclosed for data protection reasons.
The other cases involved two media representatives, seven contractors and five employees of the Games. [L1N2OR0C6]
Of particular concern is the Athletes Village, a 44-acre site on Tokyo’s waterfront, as the majority of the 11,000 participants will stay there.
IOC President Thomas Bach, who faced unprecedented resistance days before the Olympics began, acknowledged the concerns of the Japanese public but urged them to welcome the athletes.
Bach said he hoped national sporting success could help turn the mood from what he was saying aggressive into something more supportive.
“We are aware of the skepticism of some people here in Japan. We ask and invite the Japanese people to humbly welcome and support the athletes from all over the world, ”said Bach at a press conference.
“We are also confident that once the Japanese athletes are successful in the Olympics, the Japanese attitude will become less emotional.”
Originally intended to demonstrate Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Olympics have become a damage control exercise.
Postponed by a year due to the global pandemic, it will mostly take place without spectators and under strict quarantine rules. Most of the athletes come to the games, which are held from July 23rd to August 8th.
The Japanese public has been cautious about hosting the Games at all, with the resurgence of new coronavirus infections and concerns that an influx of visitors could lead to a super-spreader event that weighs on an already overloaded medical system.
Only about 20% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Although Japan has escaped other nations’ explosive outbreaks, it has recorded more than 820,000 cases and about 15,000 deaths. The number of new cases in the host city of Tokyo, which is in the fourth state of emergency because of the virus, is over 1,000 for four days in a row.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto also admitted the public’s concerns.
“I understand that there are still many worrying factors. The organizers need to try to make sure that people understand that these games are safe and secure,” she said at a press conference on Saturday.
To date, more than 40 people involved in the Games, including Japanese and foreigners, have tested positive for the virus.
Toshiro Muto, chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, said on Saturday that officials believe there will be positive cases of COVID-19.
An important part of the anti-contagion measures are daily saliva tests of the participating athletes as well as frequent tests of other people involved in the event. The movements of visitors should also be monitored and restricted.
However, Ugandan weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko went missing from his team’s training ground in Osaka on Friday.
The authorities are still looking for him, according to the game organizers. According to media reports, he left a note saying he wanted to stay and work in Japan because life in Uganda was difficult.