First positive COVID tests for athletes in Olympic Village
Tokyo — Two South African soccer players have become the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19, with the Tokyo Games opening on Friday.
An official with the South African soccer team also tested positive, as did a fourth member of South Africa’s contingent, the head coach of the rugby sevens team. The rugby team was in a pre-Games training camp in another Japanese city.
Organizers confirmed the positive tests for the two athletes in the Olympic Village in Tokyo on Sunday but didn’t identify them other than to say they were non-Japanese.
The South African Olympic committee later confirmed the three COVID-19 cases in its soccer delegation at the village — two players and a video analyst. All three were now in isolation at the Tokyo 2020 isolation facility, the South African Olympic committee said. The players were defender Thabiso Monyane and midfielder Kamohelo Mahlatsi.
The rest of the South Africa soccer squad had tested negative for the virus twice and was “following closely all the recommendations of the local health authorities,” the South African Olympic committee said.
South Africa is due to play Japan in its first game of the men’s soccer competition on Thursday at Tokyo Stadium.
South African rugby sevens coach Neil Powell tested positive on Saturday and is in an isolation facility in the southern city of Kagoshima, where the team is preparing for the Olympics. Powell will have to stay in isolation for 14 days and will miss the rugby sevens competition, South Africa’s national rugby body said.
Powell had been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in South Africa on May 24, team spokesman JJ Harmse told The Associated Press.
South African Olympic and soccer officials didn’t immediately confirm whether the two soccer players and official who tested positive had been vaccinated. However, South Africa’s Olympic committee said in May it would offer all its Olympic athletes going to Tokyo the J&J vaccine.
Tokyo Olympic organizers also said Sunday that another athlete had tested positive but this person was not residing in the Olympic Village. This athlete was also identified as “non-Japanese.”
Also on Sunday, the first International Olympic Committee member was reported as positive. He recorded a positive test on Saturday upon entering a Tokyo airport.
The International Olympic Committee confirmed the test and identified him as Ryu Seung-min of South Korea. He won an Olympic gold medal in table tennis in the 2004 Olympics.
He was reportedly being held in isolation. Reports said he was asymptomatic.
IOC President Thomas Bach said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes in the village passing on the virus to Japanese or other residents of the village.
Meanwhile, former distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the chief of mission of the IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team, tested positive for COVID-19 before the team was to depart its Doha, Qatar, training base for Tokyo, two people with knowledge of her condition have told the AP.
The team has delayed its arrival in Tokyo and many are expected to start arriving in the next few days.
Loroupe is expected to stay behind, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal medical information.
Organizers say since July 1, 55 people linked to the Olympics have reported positive tests. This figure does not include athletes or others who may have arrived for training camps but are not yet under the “jurisdiction” of the organizing committee.
The Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will house 11,000 Olympic athletes and thousands of support staff.
Tokyo reported 1,008 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the 29th straight day that cases were higher than seven days previously. It was also the fifth straight day with more than 1,000 cases reported.
The Olympics will open on Friday under a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. The emergency order lasts until Aug. 22. The Olympics close on Aug. 8.
Fans — local and those from abroad — have been banned for all Olympic events in Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures. A few outlying venues may allow a smattering of local fans.
About 200 protesters gathered on Sunday outside Shinjuku station in central Tokyo, waving signs that read “No Olympics.” It was the latest in a series of small protests over the last few months targeting the Games.
“We are not only protesting the Olympics,” protester Karoi Todo told the AP. “We are opposing the government overall — this is ignoring human rights and our right to life. Infections are increasing. To do the Olympics is unforgivable.”