The first two athletes have been forced to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid.
Fernanda Aguirre, a Chilean taekwondo fighter, and Candy Jacobs, a Dutch skateboarder, both tested positive after arriving in Tokyo this week.
Both athletes must now complete a mandatory 10-day isolation, meaning Aguirre will be unable to compete in her event Sunday while Jacobs will miss her event Monday.
Three other athletes have tested positive for Covid – South African footballers Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi, and Czech volleyball player Ondrej Perusic – but could still theoretically compete once isolation ends.
The infections were revealed as WHO Dr Tedros warned the Games will ‘inevitably’ carry an infection risk, even as Tokyo organisers boast of safety regimes in place including social distancing, temperature checks and Covid testing.
Fernanda Aguirre, a Chilean taekwondo fighter, tested positive for Covid on Wednesday at Tokyo airport after arriving from a training camp in Uzbekistan
Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs tested positive for Covid at Athletes’ Village, meaning she will miss out on the competition
Even with crowds and tourists banned from the Games, some 50,000 people including athletes, coaches, support staff, volunteers and media will still gather in Tokyo – making it the largest international event since the pandemic began.
Dr Tedros said the mark of a successful Games will not be keeping Covid cases to zero, but ensuring onward transmission is interrupted to stop it becoming a super-spreader event.
Ugandan weightlifter who fled will be sent home today
A Ugandan weightlifter who fled Athletes’ Village in Tokyo sparking a five-day manhunt will be returned home after getting caught.
Julius Ssekitoleko, 20, had fled his room in Izumisano city on Friday last week leaving behind a note saying he wanted to stay in Japan and work because his life in Uganda was ‘very hard’.
Police subsequently found him 105 miles away at a train station in Yokkaichi and took him for questioning.
The Ugandan embassy in Japan said Ssekitoleko will now return home and that his attempt to abandon his countrymen ‘will be handled appropriately upon his return’.
‘The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible,’ he said.
The Tokyo Olympics, estimated to have cost Japan at least £12billion to stage, is due to begin on Friday with the official Opening Ceremony and last until August 8.
The showpiece event, which was designed to show the country’s recovery from the devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit in 2011, has already been delayed by a year due to the Covid pandemic.
Organisers had placed a high-stakes bet on the pandemic being under control by now, but instead Covid cases are soaring in the country amid the rapid spread of the Delta variant while just 20 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
Tokyo Olympic bosses have decided to press ahead despite the risk of infection, making the Games unpopular with Japanese – two thirds of whom said they do not expect to enjoy the event in a newspaper poll on Sunday.
In total, 79 Covid infections have now been detected among those linked to the Games, including athletes, coaches, volunteers and support staff.
Aguirre revealed on Wednesday that she had tested positive for Covid on arrival in Tokyo, having travelled to the city from Uzbekistan where she had been carrying out final preparations at a training camp.
‘(She) is asymptomatic and in good health, but unfortunately will not be able to compete because the Japanese authorities impose a 10-day quarantine,’ a Chilean Olympic committee statement said on Tuesday.
Aguirre has been moved to an isolation facility, as has her coach.
The 21-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, said on social media she was ‘destroyed and very sad’.
Meanwhile Jacobs, 31, tested positive inside Athletes’ Village and revealed the news on Instagram, writing that she is ‘heartbroken’.
WHO chief Dr Tedros said Games will inevitably carry an infection risk and keeping cases to zero was never an achievable goal
‘I am feeling healthy and have done everything in my power to prevent this scenario and took all the precautions,’ she wrote.
Luckily we’ve been following the protocols so my fellow skateboarders still get to shine bright.
‘I will need some time to let my broken heart heal and recover from this. Let’s go Paris 2024.’
The Games is fast threatening to turn into an expensive embarrassment for Japan as prominent figures and businesses seek to cut ties with the event over fears about its popularity and risk of infection.
A focal point has become attendance at the Opening Ceremony, with just 15 world leaders having confirmed their attendance by Wednesday.
That is down from around 40 leaders who attended the last Olympic opening event in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Meanwhile more prominent Japanese business leaders said they will not attend, including the heads of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Japan Business Federation.
In comes after Toyota – Japan’s most-valuable company – said CEO Akio Toyoda will not attend, prompting the heads of NEC Group, Fujitsu, Panasonic and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to pull out as well.
However, one unexpected guest caused drama at the Fukushima softball arena as it hosted the first competitive event of the Games on Wednesday – an Asian black bear.
The animal was spotted near the arena Tuesday night and then again Wednesday morning, just hours before Japan took on Australia inside.
Guards spent all night searching for the animal in an attempt to capture it, blasting music and even setting off firecrackers in an attempt to flush it out.
Japan got off to a winning start with a victory over Australia in softball (pictured), despite a bear scare around the arena in the early hours of the morning
Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place Friday after a year of delays caused by the Covid pandemic which mean events will happen without crowds
Ultimately the intruder escaped, but the arena was deemed safe enough for the competition to go ahead.
Japan ultimately emerged victorious, marking the country’s first competitive victory at a Games where the medal tally is expected to be high.
But a further embarrassment was struck to organisers when a prominent author was forced to cut ties with the Olympics due to claims of historic bullying.
Children’s author Nobumi withdrew from cultural events surrounding the Games after allegations emerged that he bullied teachers and children with birth defects.
The event’s official website says Nobumi made the choice not to attend.
Since his appearance was announced, the writer had been targeted with criticism online for past acts and remarks referred to in his books and on social media.
It comes just a day after Opening Ceremony composer Keigo Oyamada was forced to quit after magazine interviews in which he bragged about bullying disabled classmates while at school resurfaced online.
Oyamada, 52, told two separate music magazines during interviews in the 1990s that he bullied classmates of Korean descent, one of whom had Down Syndrome.
The bullying ranged from trapping one boy in a cardboard box to making another eat faeces and masturbate in front of other pupils.
The interviews came to light at the weekend with Oyamada issuing an apology that was initially accepted by organisers – before they backtracked and cut ties with him.
In February, organising committee president Yoshiro Mori was also forced to quit after making disparaging comments about women.
Mori had complained that women ‘talk too much’ and that boardroom meetings with lots of female CEOs would ‘take too long.’
Australian Olympic show jumper tests positive for cocaine
An Australian show jumper has been suspended from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cocaine.
Jamie Kermond, 36, tested positive during a routine test at the Athletes’ Village on Wednesday.
He has been provisionally suspended while further tests are carried out.
Kermond’s selection for the Olympics was already controversial, after he leap-frogged the country’s highest-ranked showjumper to make the team.
Rowan Willis was ranked 59th in the world when team selection took place, but missed out to Kermond who was ranked 1013th.
Australian Olympic show jumper Jamie Kermond has been suspended from the Tokyo Games after returning a positive sample for cocaine
Kermond (pictured) was controversially selected ahead of Australia’s top-ranked show jumper Rowan Willis after reports he had sponsorship ties to one of the team’s selectors
It later emerged that Kermond had ties to a sponsor linked with Stephen Lamb – one of the people charged with selecting Olympic athletes.
Mr Lamb conceded a conflict of interest and recused himself, but the incident was enough to prompt Equestrian Australia to ask the Australian Institute of Sport to check that Kermond’s selection was above-board.
‘Whilst the AIS is managing the high-performance program, it is imperative the EA board are in a position to have sufficient oversight from a governance perspective of the decisions taken by the high-performance panel and the resultant activities by the high-performance panel management team,’ EA chairman Mark Bradley wrote to the AIS in May.
‘The EA board requests the AIS provide comfort confirming all duties are being discharged and all the legal, regulatory and good governance practices of EA have been adhered to.’