Security officers in Tokyo, Japan, last week. Picture: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO
Security officers in Tokyo, Japan, last week. Picture: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO

Tokyo — The first test of how an Olympics can be held in the midst of a pandemic may well come this week in the men’s football tournament when Japan face a SA side that could struggle to field 11 players due to the novel coronavirus.

SA’s squad was depleted by Covid-19 infections and withdrawals before it left for the Games and was then hit with the news that two players and a video analyst had tested positive on arrival in Tokyo.

Organisers said late on Monday that 21 members of the delegation were close contacts, leaving SA walking a tightrope ahead of Thursday’s match against the hosts. The number was later reduced to 18.

The Olympic playbook on coronavirus prevention measures mandates that to compete a close contact must return daily negative PCR tests, including one within six hours of competition. They must also undergo a health check by an expert and receive permission from their international sporting federation.

Fifa regulations stipulate a team must have 13 available players for a match to go ahead and SA coach David Notoane said the daily testing means he has no idea who will be able to take the field to face the Japanese.

“You are not even sure who will be eligible for your (starting) 11 because of the situation we are in, testing every day,” he told reporters about the team, who returned to training on Monday after a week off the pitch. “Their (Japan’s) physical readiness compared to us will be a key issue. It will make a huge difference. We basically lost seven days and that is hard to recover from.”

Michiko Dohi, Covid-19 chief liaison officer with the Japan Olympic committee, said that with the proper, strict steps being taken, the match could be held safely.

There have been 58 positive cases of Olympics-linked athletes, staff or officials recorded in Japan this month.

On Monday, a Czech beach volleyball player tested positive at the Olympic Village, while an alternate for the US women’s gymnastics team tested positive at the site of their pre-Games training camp just outside Tokyo.

Dohi said most of the positive cases had been contracted before the delegations entered Japan.

“My understanding is that they weren’t (caught) in the Olympic Village,” she told a news conference on Tuesday.



Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.