Tokyo 2020: One week to go but can the Olympic spirit defeat the spectre of COVID-19

The Tokyo Olympics are now just seven days away but already the COVID games have begun.

Athletes are already being forced to pull out, more than two dozen positive cases have been confirmed, one team is in isolation and some training plans are in disarray – it hasn’t been an easy start for the 32nd Olympic Games but it was never likely to be.

Delayed by a year, the Japanese people were supposed to be celebrating the end of the pandemic as well as marking ten years of recovery from the earthquake and tsunami that killed 20,000 on its east coast in 2011.

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases means though that the pandemic is far from over and more protests will take place in the Japanese capital later today calling for the Games to be cancelled even at this late stage.

So far one unidentified athlete has tested positive as well as a group of workers at a hotel used by part of the Brazilian team.

The South African Rugby Sevens team have had to isolate after they travelled on the same plane as someone who later tested positive.

GB tennis stars Johanna Konta and Dan Evans have both tested positive and have had to pull out before even travelling to Japan.

Positive COVID-19 tests have been found amongst athletes, Games staff, media and Tokyo 2020 contractors, with many participants yet to arrive.

Team GB boss Mark England told Sky News that, so far, the COVID-19 rules and procedures for their athletes who have arrived are working, but that complacency cannot be allowed to creep in.

“It’s not easy and people do need to be reminded of their responsibility,” the team’s Chef De Mission said.

“Not just to themselves and not just to their own sport but the wider Team GB delegation.”

“That’s really important because, as we know, quick outbreaks of a COVID-19 variant can bring teams down, it can bring delegations down quite quickly.”

A ban on spectators means athlete’s families will be forced to watch from home.

Track cyclist Laura Kenny is aiming to win her fifth Olympic gold medal in her third Olympics, her husband Jason Kenny already has six Olympic golds – both will ride again in Tokyo but they’ll have to leave their four-year-old son Albie with relatives in the UK.

Laura told Sky News that the initial plan was for their son to travel: “He would have done. But to be honest, I think it took a decision away.

“I’m sort of glad that the decision got made for us because we were umming and ahing whether to take him. Obviously with COVID, it just brings an extra risk.”

After all the delays and question marks Laura said it’s a relief to know that they are finally going to compete: “It’s got an Olympic buzz now, which I think six weeks ago it didn’t have.”

The International Olympic Committee are adamant that Tokyo is the “best prepared” city ever to host the Games.

Last week they confirmed that spectators would be banned from all Tokyo venues – most of the events being held in other parts of Japan will also be held without fans.

Organisers are using innovative ways to share the Olympic experience with people around the world, but you can’t get away from the strangeness of this event.

The IOC are walking a tightrope and know that the dangers of holding the Games have never been so stark – but the Olympic spirit is capable of extraordinary things – Tokyo 2020 will tell us if it can overcome COVID-19.

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