Sunday, October 17

IOC President Promises “Safe” Olympics Despite Covid Case in Athletes’ Village | Sport

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has urged the Japanese public to welcome the Olympic Games when they begin on July 23 and insisted that they will be “safe and secure” despite a positive Covid test in the village of the athletes.

While acknowledging the widespread skepticism in Japan, Bach noted that more than 15,000 people had so far arrived for the Olympics, and only 15 tested positive. He also insisted that the Games would be the most restrictive sporting event in the world, limiting the possibility of widespread infections.

Toshiro Muto, Executive Director of the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee, confirmed today that a foreign visitor involved in organizing the Games tested positive. It did not disclose the person’s nationality, citing privacy concerns, but said they had been quarantined for 14 days.

The case worries organizers and the IOC, which had promised that the village would be the “safest place” in Tokyo, but Bach said it was important to take a bigger picture. Speaking at the first IOC press conference of these Games, he noted that the positive test rate was “very low, only 0.1%”.

“It goes without saying that all the people were immediately isolated and not [present] any risk to the Japanese people, “he added.

Japan’s public has been lukewarm on the Games amid a resurgence of new coronavirus infections and concerns that an influx of foreign visitors could help turn it into a wide-spread event, which in turn could exert more. pressure on the country’s already stretched medical system.

But Bach said: “We are very aware of skepticism in Japan. My call to the Japanese people is to welcome these athletes who are here for the competition of their lives, and to recognize that it is not for any price.

“They have the same interest as the Japanese in ensuring that these Games are safe and secure. And for this they accept and even welcome the measures that make these Olympics the most restricted sporting event not only in Japan but throughout the world.

“What will make the Games so historic is the demonstration that they can happen safely, even in the circumstances of this pandemic.”

At least five athletes have tested positive for Covid-19 since arriving in Japan for the Games, while the Olympic Refugee Team was forced to delay their trip to Tokyo after one of their delegation also tested positive.

Police officers gather at the Olympic Village, where a first positive case of Covid was confirmed.
Police officers gather at the Olympic Village, where a first positive case of Covid was confirmed. Photograph: Franck Robichon / EPA

However, Bach stressed that the chances of Covid significantly affecting the Games were small. “None of the sporting events in the world have such strict protocols for anti-Covid as these Olympic Games,” he added. “Hopefully the Japanese will also gain confidence from very rigorous testing and very rigorous immediate action.”

That message was reinforced by Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto. When asked if she was concerned about the Delta variant of the spread of Covid, she replied: “We are doing everything we can to make sure Covid is safe.” However, he admitted that some athletes who have not yet traveled to Tokyo “are probably very concerned” about the situation in the host city of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Meanwhile, as more athletes moved to the athlete village, the South Korean Olympic team was asked to remove the banners hanging from balconies after upsetting officials of a far-right Japanese political party. According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the message on the banners was translated as “I still have the support of 50 million Koreans,” a reference to comments made by Admiral Yi Sun-sin before defeating the Japanese navy in 1597. , despite being outnumbered. .

A protest was also staged in front of the athletes’ village on Friday, with members of the National Party of Japan holding up the rising sun delay, formerly used by the Imperial Japanese Army.

When Bach was asked if he supported New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to become the first trans woman to compete in the Olympics, he sidestepped the question and simply said that the International Weightlifting Federation rules they meant that he was allowed to compete. “The rules are in place and the rules must be applied,” he said. “You cannot change the rules during an ongoing grading system. This is what all athletes in the world trust ”.

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