It's ironic that despite all the efforts undertaken by the Games organizers to ensure the safety of Olympic athletes during the upcoming Tokyo Summer Games will likely be all for naught - as the Games seems almost pre-destined to be labeled a "super spreader event' after the fact.
Even though spectators have been banned from all Olympic events, a Nigerian delegate has become the first visitor to Japan admitted to the hospital after testing positive for COVID, according to local media reports.
The delegate, who isn't an athlete, is in their 60s. They tested positive Thursday as Tokyo reported a new record tally of daily new cases.
What's more, athletes are already testing positive. On Friday, the Australian Olympic Committee revealed that tennis player Alex de Minaur, who is ranked 15th in the world, has tested positive prior to his departure for the Games, meaning he will need to sit out the competition for which he has been training for years.
"We're very disappointed for Alex," said Australia's chef de mission, Ian Chesterman. "He said that he’s shattered, not being able to come … but he has sent his very best wishes for the rest of the team."
De Minaur returned two positive tests in Spain before he was due to fly to Japan, David Hughes, the AOC’s chief medical officer, told a news conference.
In the US, USA Basketball revealed Thursday that Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal had tested positive. Other athletes and staff associated with the Games have tested positive in Tokyo and abroad as Delta drives cases higher. Japan has aggressively accelerated its vaccine rollout, but only 30% of its adult population has received at least one dose.
But COVID isn't the only issue plaguing the Olympics. On Friday, a top Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato revealed that a Ugandan athlete had gone missing. Police and the team’s host city, Izumisano in western Japan, are mounting a search, he said. Izumisano city authorities identified the missing athlete as 20-year-old weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko.
With the Games set to begin next week, Tokyo is confirming new COVID infections at the fastest pace in six months.
The disaster that the Olympics have become is having a serious backlash for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as millions of Japanese feel they have been robbed of the pomp and celebration (not to mention the economic boost) that typically accompany an Olympics hosting duty. The latest polls show support for Suga is teetering just north of the "danger zone" - less than 30%. That's the level below which many of Suga's predecessors have either quit, or been forced out.