Desperately hoping for a safe Tokyo OlympicsMonday, July 19, 2021
It was only to be expected. Nonetheless, reports of athletes and support staff testing positive for the novel coronavirus at the athletes' village in Tokyo just a few days before the start of the Olympic Games on Friday has jangled nerves.
Following the first positive test on Saturday, Jamaica Olympic Association President Mr Christopher Samuda assured Jamaican athletes — whether landed, already departed, or about to leave for Tokyo — of his own belief that all was being done by organisers and hosts to “deliver a safe Olympics”. This after its postponement from last year because of the pandemic.
“With the positive finding in the village, I understand that protocols have been re-emphasised, medical personnel will be given more support, and a non-negotiable approach to infractions of rules and regulations and to non-adherence to the testing regime is being continuously reinforced,” Mr Samuda told this newspaper.
But by yesterday there was more disconcerting news. Four members of the South African delegation — two footballers, a video analyst and head coach of that country's rugby sevens team — had tested positive for the virus.
We are told that up to 15,400 athletes and others are expected to gather at the Olympic village over the next few days and until the Games come to an end on August 8.
The Olympic Games will be followed immediately after by the Paralympics, which will also entail large numbers.
As athletes, support staff, Games officials, journalists, et al arrive in Japan over the next few days we expect there will be more reports of people testing positive for the virus, further denting morale.
The situation is especially difficult for the hosts because of a prolonged surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo — a city of 13.9 million people — with more than 1,000 cases recorded daily, five days in a row.
For reasons that are not entirely clear for those of us at a distance, the COVID-19 vaccination programme has gone very slowly in Japan compared to other rich, industrialised countries.
To make matters worse, polls have suggested over a period of months that the majority of Japanese would have preferred the Games either postponed yet again until the pandemic is brought under control, or cancelled. Up to yesterday there were reports of small anti-Olympics protests in Tokyo.
Yet, turning back now would be extremely difficult if not next to impossible. The world must hope that the well-earned Japanese reputation for organisation, mobilisation, dotting 'I's and crossing 'T's, will stand up to this most severe of challenges.
This newspaper takes heart from the high level of organisation in evidence so far as reported by news outlets and the assurances from organisers and the Japanese Government.
Many competitors will be annoyed by the numerous mandatory protocols, including mask-wearing, constant temperature checks, sanitising, and daily testing. All should understand that there is no other way.
We are enthused by organisers' commitment to transparency, including prompt, accurate reporting of positive cases. That may seem a minor point to some, but in fact it is absolutely vital to the maintenance of trust, without which everything becomes more difficult. We keep our fingers crossed for the Tokyo Olympics.
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