Tokyo entered the last Olympic countdown on Friday, but there used to be little fanfare with just one week until the opening ceremony, as virus infections surge in the Japanese capital. Organisers have been forced to bar spectators from all events in the city and most venues hosting competitions elsewhere in the country. And Olympic participants from athletes to media face a range of anti-virus measures including steady testing and limits on their movement. But with Tokyo recording its highest case numbers since a winter wave in January, scrutiny of virus risks around the Games is intense.
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach insisted Thursday that anti-virus rules “are working”.
Among thousands of arrivals to Japan since July 1, only a handful of positive cases have been reported.
Tokyo 2020 on Thursday said an athlete and five staff members, mostly contractors, had tested positive. Another four positive tests were reported among Olympic staff on Friday.
Other cases have been found among delegations arriving early for training camps, or in one case among staff at a hotel hosting Brazilian athletes.
But Bach said a visit to the Olympic Village had convinced him that anti-virus rules were “in place, and they’re working, and they’re enforced”.
“We could see and convince ourselves that all of the delegations are following the rules and are supporting the rules, because they realize it is in their own interest to be protected,” he said at a assembly with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike.
The capital is currently under a virus state of emergency, despite the fact that the measures are significantly less strict than a lockdown and mostly limit alcohol sales and restaurants’ opening hours.
The measures will continue right through the Olympics, and could be expanded to other regions where cases are surging.
Japan has seen a smaller outbreak than many countries, with fewer than 15,000 deaths, despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.
But the country’s vaccination roll-out has been comparatively slow, with around 20 percent of the population so far fully vaccinated.
‘Olympic Games, Covid edition’
Dozens of teams are already in Japan — some at training camps dotted around the country, and others in the Olympic Village, where national flags have been hung on the buildings housing delegations.
British weightlifter Sarah Davies used to be a number of the athletes posting on social media approximately life at the pandemic Olympics.
“We have what we call the jail yard,” she said in a video posted on her Instagram account as she walked on a stretch of pavement.
“So we will be able to literally walk up and down this stretch between the hours of 7 am and 10 am, and that’s the only time we’re allowed outdoor,” she said.
“Genuinely, feels like we’re in jail. But, hey, it is what it is… Welcome to Olympic Games, Covid edition.”
Other teams on the town, including American swimmers and star gymnast Simone Biles, also posted images from their training sites.
Bach will be in Hiroshima on Friday to mark the start of an “Olympic truce” endorsed by the United Nations. IOC vice-president John Coates will visit Nagasaki.
The truce aims to verify a halt to all hostilities, allowing the protected passage and participation of athletes and spectators for the Games.
Bach has sparked controversy by reportedly asking Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to imagine allowing spectators into Olympic venues whether the virus situation improves.
Native media said the request used to be made all over a assembly between the two men on Wednesday, with Suga saying any changes to spectator rules would be determined by native and national government officials with organisers and Olympic and Paralympic representatives.
Despite the state of emergency, up to 5,000 spectators are allowed at non-Olympic sporting events in Tokyo.
But organisers argue the Games is different because it involves more than one events happening concurrently, posing a greater risk of crowds gathering and infection spreading.
Native media reported this week that fewer than 1,000 people — mostly dignitaries and officials — would be allowed to watch the opening ceremony on July 23.
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