A Czech Olympic team staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Tokyo on a charter flight from Prague.
Czech Olympic officials said on Saturday that all their athletes were healthy and in the Olympic Village.
The unnamed staff member – who had two negative tests before departure and had no symptoms – is now in isolation along with several close contacts from the plane.
“Within two hours we implemented an action plan and we prepared individual rooms for all athletes and members of the escort from the plane who arrived in the village,” Czech Olympic Committee sports director Martin Doktor said.
“In any case, the training activities and plans of the athletes are not limited in any way.”
COVID-19 case in Athletes Village
Tokyo Olympics organisers on Saturday reported the first case of COVID-19 at the athletes’ village, along with 14 other new cases connected to the Games that begin next week, raising fresh doubts over promises of a “safe and secure” event.
The latest cases are a blow to the local organisers and the International Olympic Committee, who have insisted the Games will not become a super-spreader event.
The Tokyo organisers confirmed that a visitor from abroad working for the Olympics had tested positive in a routine check on Friday. The person’s nationality was not revealed due to privacy concerns.
The other cases included two members of the media, seven contractors and five Games personnel.
The case at the athletes’ village, a 44-hectare site built on Tokyo’s waterfront, is particularly worrying as the majority of the 11,000 competitors will be staying there.
IOC President Thomas Bach, facing unprecedented opposition to an Olympics days before it starts, acknowledged the concerns in the Japanese public but urged them to welcome the athletes.
Bach said he was hoping domestic sporting success could help shift the mood from what he said bordered on the aggressive to something more supportive.
“We are well aware of the scepticism a number of people have here in Japan. We ask and invite the Japanese people, humbly, to welcome and support the athletes from around the world,” Bach told a news conference.
“We are also confident once the Japanese people will see the Japanese athletes successfully performing in the Olympic Games then the attitude may become less emotional.”
If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .
Originally intended to showcase Japan’s recovery from its 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Olympics has become an exercise in damage limitation.
Postponed for a year due to the global pandemic, it is being held mostly without spectators and under tight quarantine rules. Most athletes are starting to arrive for the Games, which run from July 23 through August 8.
The Japanese public has been wary about hosting the Games at all amid a resurgence in new coronavirus infections and worries that an influx of visitors may create a super-spreader event, straining an already-stretched medical system.
Only around 20 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Although Japan has escaped the explosive outbreaks of other nations, it has recorded more than 820,000 cases and about 15,000 deaths. The number of new cases in host city Tokyo, which is in its fourth state of emergency over the virus, has been over 1,000 for four straight days.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto also acknowledged the public’s concerns.
“I understand that there are still many worrying factors. Organisers must try to make sure that people understand that these games are safe and secure,” she told a news conference on Saturday.
Australian Olympic team lands in Tokyo
A year ago, Australian rower Molly Goodman was stuck training indoors and wondering what would happen next as COVID-19 put the Olympics on hold.
On Saturday, she was in a large contingent of 147 Australian Olympians bound for Tokyo.
Competitors from swimming, hockey, women’s wateropolo, men’s beach volleyball, badminton, weightlifting and table tennis were also on the flight from Cairns.
Australia will have a team of 488 athletes in Tokyo, its largest for a foreign Games.
Goodman, who will compete at her second Olympics in the women’s eight, said on the Cairns tarmac that the Games finally were feeling real.
“We’ve been together as a team for the last couple of weeks, but now we’re with all the other sports,” Goodman said.
“We’re all in uniform and it’s pretty real and exciting now.
“It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come and what we’ve been through in the last year – this time last year, we were all at home, training on the ‘ergos’ indoors. It’s been a quite the journey.”