Japan Olympic Committee chief tests positive for virus
Kozo Tashima may have contracted coronavirus in Europe and officials insist the summer Games will take place in July
Tokyo — Japan Olympic Committee deputy chief Kozo Tashima said on Tuesday he had contracted the coronavirus, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the Summer Games.
“Today, my test result showed positive for the new coronavirus,” Tashima said in a statement issued via the Japan Football Association, which he also heads. “I have a mild fever. Examinations showed a symptom of pneumonia, but I’m fine. I will concentrate on treatment following doctors’ advice.”
His announcement came as the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said it would scale down festivities related to the Olympic torch relay to prevent further spread of the virus. The flame, which has already been lit in Greece, will arrive in northern Japan on Friday, with the torch relay due to start on March 26 from Fukushima.
Japanese officials insist that the summer Games — due to start in July — will take place as scheduled despite rising speculation that they might be postponed or even cancelled.
Tashima said he had been on a business trip since February 28, first heading to Belfast to attend the annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board.
From March 2, he visited Amsterdam for a Uefa meeting to give a presentation on Japan’s bid for the 2023 women’s World Cup. And on March 3, he attended a general meeting of the same body.
“In Amsterdam and in Europe in early March, the level of nervousness against the novel coronavirus was not the same as now,” he said in the statement. “Everyone was still doing hugs, handshakes and bises [cheek kissing].”
He then travelled to the US to watch the Japanese women’s team in action and to lobby for the women’s World Cup, before returning home on March 8. “In the US, too, the sense of crisis ... was not as serious as now,” he said.
Staff at the Japan Football Association have been working from home as a precaution, but Tashima said he went to the association building several times last week and attended meetings.
He began feeling chills and experienced a mild fever from Sunday. He went to a local public health centre on Monday and told them about his travel history.
During the Uefa gatherings, Tashima said he saw Swiss and Serbian football chiefs, who have tested positive for the virus, though he added it was not clear how he contracted the infection. His positive test came out on Tuesday.
“I have chosen to face the illness as so many people are doing in Japan and around the world,” he said, adding that he hoped his decision would help eradicate the stigma attached to the infection.