Covid has breached the Olympic bubble. Five days from the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, three members of the South African soccer team staying in the Olympic Village tested positive for Covid-19. They’re the first Olympians to test positive for the coronavirus in the tightly-monitored athlete’s enclave along Tokyo’s Harumi waterfront.
In a July 17 press statement, the South African team said defender Thabiso Monyane, midfielder Kamohelo Mahlatsi, and Mario Masha, an analyst on the coaching staff, tested positive over the weekend. All South African players headed to Tokyo reported a negative test when they left for the games on July 13. The entire South African football team is now under quarantine, raising doubts whether they’ll be cleared for their July 22 match against Japan.
Covid-19 remains a big concern in Tokyo despite Japan’s dogged efforts to contain the virus at the world’s largest sporting event, expected to draw about 11,000 athletes from 200 nations. The Tokyo Olympic Committee has introduced measures such as banning spectators at games, daily Covid-19 tests for athletes, and limiting stays at the Olympic Village to seven days.
With Japan still under a state of emergency and the Covid-19 delta variant spreading at an alarming clip, many continue to appeal to the International Olympic Committee to cancel the games. Some But experts say canceling the games at this juncture would mean a loss of $16.4 billion to Japan. The host country also risks being sued by the IOC for breach of contract.
Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, tried to rally local support for the games in a July 17 press event, addressing the outbreaks. “We are well aware of the skepticism a number of people have here in Japan,” he said. “My appeal to the Japanese people is to welcome the athletes for their competitions.”