- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 20, 2021

With coronavirus cases rising for athletes rising in the week leading up to the Olympics, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee didn’t rule out the possibility of a last-minute cancellation of the Games.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Toshiro Muto said the organizing committee would continue to monitor the number of infections, and discussions would be held if necessary.

About 11,000 athletes have or are set to descend on Tokyo for the upcoming Games, and The Associated Press has reported that 71 people accredited for the Olympics have tested positive this month.

“We will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” Muto said, according to Reuters. “We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

However, a spokesperson for the Olympics said organizers are “concentrating 100% on delivering successful Games.”

The United States saw a gymnastics alternate test positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first American to test positive at the Games amid growing numbers.

A beach volleyball player from the Czech Republic also was reported to have tested positive Monday, which could lead to a possible postponement of Ondřej Perušič’s opening match while he isolates.

Two South African men’s soccer players also were announced to have tested positive Sunday, and they — plus a team video analyst — have been moved to an isolation facility managed by the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

But those positive tests have a ripple effect. The South African men’s soccer team is slated to open the Games on Thursday against Japan. With 21 close contacts on the team, South African is unable to practice as a full group ahead of that first game.

“There will be, of course, a certain number of positive cases to be found in the lead-up to the Games. But once again, the most important thing is the response to the positive cases,” Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee spokesman Masa Takaya said Monday, according to The Washington Post.

That is just one early headache for an Olympics that was already delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic — with a late cancellation not completely ruled out.

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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