Pandemic-hit Tokyo Olympics kicks off; Covid cases go past 100
Tokyo, July 23 (PTI): The Covid 19-hit 32nd Olympic Games formally began on Friday with a glittering opening ceremony, which sought to take the spotlight away from the gloom of a raging pandemic and put it firmly on the sporting excellence that the event promises to unleash.
‘United by Emotion’ was the theme of the night which opened with a countdown video dating back to the time when Tokyo won the bid to host the Games in 2013 before persevering through a year of postponement due to the pandemic.
It was followed by a 20-second indigo and white fireworks to display the colours of the Tokyo 2020 emblem and shaped like a fan, which is an auspicious symbol in Japanese culture.
Japanese emperor Naruhito walked in with International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach.
The opening ceremony is being held at the Olympic Stadium where the track and field events will be held.
As decided weeks ago, there were no spectators to witness the spectacle, which was watched by about a 1,000 dignitaries including US First Lady Jill Biden.
The ceremony sought to celebrate the athletes, who went through a whirlwind of emotion ever since the pandemic took away precious training time and left them grappling with the fear of the unknown.
Tokyo Olympics linked Covid cases go past 100, organisers announce 19 new cases
The Covid-19 cases associated with the Olympic Games breached the 100-mark on Friday with the announcement of 19 new infections and the Czech contingent seemed among the worst hit after a fourth athlete — road cyclist Michal Schlegel — tested positive for the virus.
The Tokyo Olympic organisers, in their daily Covid-19 update, announced that three athletes, 10 Games-concerned personnel, three mediapersons and as many contractors associated with the event have been found positive.
The total number of cases directly linked to the Games stood at 106 on Friday with 11 of them athletes.
The Czech contingent reported its sixth overall case even as it investigated breach of health safety protocols while travelling to Japan.
“The fourth athlete and the sixth Czech member of the team, who did not avoid a positive test for Covid-19 at the Tokyo Olympics, is road cyclist Michal Schlegel,” the country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) stated.
“His positive antigen test was also confirmed by PCR analysis in a cycling village in Izu. Now Schlegel is back in the hotel for road cyclists in isolation,” it added.
Schlegel was to compete on Saturday but “will not make it to the Olympic road race”.
The other athletes in the Czech contingent to have tested positive are beach volleyball players Ondrej Perusic and Marketa Nausch, and table tennis player Pavel Sirucek.
“Other road cycling representatives Tereza Neumanova and Michael Kukrle also went to Tokyo for testing,” the Czech NOC stated.
“Zdenek Stybar stayed in the cycling hotel, as he was not on board a charter flight from Prague and arrived in Japan two days later.”
On Thursday, the Czech contingent’s doctor Vlastimil Voracek also tested positive for the virus.
Before that, a beach volleyball coach had also returned a positive test at the Games village.
In other contingents, Chilean Taekwondo player Fernanda Aguirre, Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs and taekwondo hope Reshmie Oogink are among the cases that have reported among athletes who have landed in Tokyo and forced to withdraw from their events.
Previously, two South African footballers, and an American beach volleyball player had also tested positive while being here. Some athletes have been forced to withdraw even before reaching the city, found positive in tests conducted in their home countries.