September 20, 2021

Covid-19: the Tokyo Olympics confronted with a first source of contamination

With the discovery of three positive cases for Covid-19 within ‘the same team’ at the Olympic Village, the Tokyo Games are faced, Sunday, July 18, with the management of a first source of contamination.

Five days before the opening of the Olympics, which are to be held from July 23 to August 8, the organizers have detected two infected athletes in the Village, after announcing the very first positive case – of a member of the village the day before. supervision – in this huge, emblematic residence of the Games.

The three contaminations concern ‘the same country and the same sport’, revealed on Sunday a spokesperson for the Organizing Committee at a press conference, without further details on the concerned delegation.

The two positive athletes and their companion were therefore ‘isolated in their room and Tokyo-2020 brings them their meals’, continued the same source, while their ‘close contacts have been identified’.

These ‘contacts’ immediately underwent nasopharyngeal tests, in addition to the daily saliva control of the participants in the Games. They will have to ‘eat in their room, train separately and take separate transport’, explained Pierre Ducrey, deputy director of the Olympic Games within the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The duration of these precautionary measures, which affect group life as well as the preparation for the competition, will depend on the verdict of the anti-Covid ‘control center’ within the Olympic Village.

‘It is only when the experts have determined that you are no longer a risk to others that you can join your team,’ explained Pierre Ducrey.

Other cases already identified

These are not the first cases of Covid-19 linked to the Games, since the IOC on Sunday identified 55 positive tests among the 30,000 carried out on 18,000 athletes, supervisors, officials or journalists who arrived in Japan since 1isJuly.

The IOC has also confirmed that one of its members, the South Korean Ryu Seung-min, had tested positive on his arrival in the archipelago. Tuesday and Wednesday, the 102 members of the body are to meet in a palace in the Japanese capital for their general assembly.

But the first outbreak in the Olympic Village illustrates the fear of cascading contaminations in this place without equivalent in the sports world, putting to the test the anti-Covid measures prepared for months.

‘It is inevitable that we have cases’, acknowledged Sunday Christophe Dubi, Director of Games within the IOC, aware of the fears of part of the Japanese population in the face of this planetary meeting. However, he assured that ‘everything was in place to limit the mixing of populations’ and ‘maintain the risk’ of chain contaminations ‘to an absolute minimum’.

Intensive screening

Positive cases linked to the Games remain very marginal for the time being, underlined Saturday the IOC boss, Thomas Bach, who has been promising for months a ‘safe’ Olympics for the participants as for the Japanese population.

From the spring, the IOC had concentrated its efforts on the vaccination of the delegations, reaching an agreement in May with the Pfizer and BioNTech laboratories before setting up in June Olympic ‘vaccinodromes’ in Qatar and Rwanda.

The body now emphasizes the intensive screening of participants in the Games, the limitation of contacts and the immediate isolation of positive cases. ‘It is probably the most controlled population in the world at the moment,’ insisted Pierre Ducrey.

Moreover, while the Olympic Village was designed for 17,000 people, only ‘6,000’ at most should reside there at the same time, during the peak expected in the middle of the Games, Christophe Dubi calculated on Saturday.

Almost all of the Olympic events will take place behind closed doors and the tens of thousands of participants – from athletes to officials, including journalists from abroad – are subject to draconian restrictions due to health risks.