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The Olympics begins on Friday night, with the opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo 2020 games finally getting underway – although many of the athletes involved may not be able to make it.
That’s because there are fears that a growing Covid cluster has emerged in the middle of the athletes village, as a number of people tested positive for the virus, with many more being forced into self-isolation.
Follow all the latest news and updates from Tokyo below
FOURTH COVID CASE IN OLYMPIC VILLAGE
The Tokyo Olympic Village has been hit by a fourth coronavirus case as major sponsor Toyota said it would not run any Games-related TV ads as the event struggles for support just days before the opening ceremony.
A Czech beach volleyball player became the fourth case and the third infected athlete in the Village, where thousands of competitors are living in a biosecure “bubble”.
The delayed 2020 Games will finally get underway on Friday, in a near-empty Olympic Stadium with Tokyo under a coronavirus state of emergency after a spike in cases.
The latest Asahi Shimbun newspaper poll found a majority of respondents, 55 per cent, were against holding the Games this summer, with 33 per cent in favour.
It has not been a smooth final build-up for the Games, which were postponed last year, but officials will hope the tide of public opinion turns when the sports programme gets underway.
In a sign of the current sentiment Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, said it will not run Olympics-related TV ads, and its executives will not be present at the opening ceremony.
“Toyota officials will not attend the opening ceremony, and the chief reason behind it is there will be no spectators,” Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto told AFP.
Fewer than 1000 Olympic officials and VIPs including sponsors will be allowed to watch the opening ceremony on Friday, according to Japanese media.
Toyota’s operating officer Jun Nagata earlier told reporters it was becoming more difficult for the Olympics to strike a positive chord with the public.
“It is turning into an Olympics that cannot get understanding (from the public) in various ways,” Nagata told Japanese media.
Organisers insisted the Village was safe despite the diagnosis of Czech beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic, which follows positive tests from two South African footballers and a video analyst.
Twenty-one members of the South African men’s football contingent are in isolation after being named as close contacts, disrupting preparations for their opening game on Thursday against Japan.
Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said there have been 61 positive cases connected with the Games so far – a tiny fraction of the thousands of tests carried out.
“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 are absolutely clear that the Olympic Village is a safe place to stay,” Takaya told reporters.
Brian McCloskey, chairman of the Independent Expert Panel advising the International Olympic Committee, said a system of “filtering” – starting with athletes being tested before departure – was working.
“The numbers we’re seeing are actually extremely low,” he told reporters. “They’re probably lower than we expected, if anything.” Athletes are tested daily at the Olympics, where they are also told to observe social distancing and wear masks unless they are competing, eating or sleeping.
When asked about the risk of a cluster in the Village, McCloskey said: “All the measures that we have in place… will reduce the risk of spreading it on.”
TENNIS STAR RULED OUT
American teen tennis star Coco Gauff will miss the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19, she announced on Sunday.
Gauff, coming off a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, tweeted her sadness at missing out on “a dream come true” at age 17.
“I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for Covid and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Gauff tweeted.
“It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.” Gauff, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at this year’s French Open, became the latest tennis standout and US athlete to miss the Olympics.
World number 25 Gauff will be forced into Covid-19 quarantine and isolation protocols.
“I want to wish TEAM USA best of luck and a safe games for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family,” Gauff tweeted.
The Olympics tennis event in Tokyo is already missing a host of big names with major winners Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu all absent.
However, world number ones Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty both intend to play.