For the past year and a half, the cloud of COVID-19 has loomed over the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Games have already been postponed a year, a majority of Japanese citizens do not want the Olympics to go on as scheduled and a state of emergency in Tokyo has forced organizers to ban spectators from all events. Now the virus has directly touched the Games as the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was found in the Olympic Village, just one week before the opening ceremonies are set to take place.
According to international news agency AFP, Tokyo organizing committee spokesman Masa Takaya confirmed the case, saying "That was the very first case in the village that was reported during the screening test."
Athletes from all over the world have already started arriving in Tokyo ahead of the Summer Games which are scheduled to open on July 23 and run through August 8 as Tokyo reported a six-month high in cases.
While organizers have repeatedly pushed for the Games to go on, there have been challenging hurdles during the global pandemic. After initially saying that a limited number of spectators from Japan would be allowed at the events, Olympic organizers reversed course earlier in July, saying no fans will be allowed amid concerns of a growing spread of the virus in and around Tokyo that has led to a state of emergency being extended.
Also, in the walk-up to the Games this month, it was announced that athletes who are on a medal podium will place their own medals around their necks, rather than the tradition of an official presenting the medals to the winners.
Earlier this year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach expressed his belief that the Games would be able to be held as long as protocols and efforts to curb the spread of the virus were enforced and followed.
"The IOC is fully committed to the successful and safe delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," Bach said.
Nationally, Japan has had more than 832,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 15,000 people have died from the virus in the country. According to the AP, about 21 percent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated.