Guinea withdrew from the Olympics shortly before the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games, citing concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Sanoussy Bantama Sow, Guinea’s sports minister, wrote a letter to the president of the Guinean Olympic Committee pointing to the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly of the Delta variant, as the reason the African nation withdrew from the Games.
“Due to the resurgence of COVID variants, the government, concerned with preserving the health of Guinean athletes, has decided with regret to cancel Guinea’s participation in the 32nd Olympics scheduled for Tokyo,” the statement said, via The Associated Press.
Guinea was set to have five athletes compete in the Games, including swimmers Mamadou Tahirou Bah and Fatoumata Lamarana Toure, 100-meter runner Aissata Deen Conte and judo competitor Mamadou Samba Bah.
Fatoumata Yarie Camara, a freestyle wrestler, told AP that she doesn’t understand why the Guinean athletes are impacted while other nations can still compete.
“The question I ask myself is why has Guinea decided not to participate in the Olympic Games on the grounds of coronavirus when the organizing country like Japan hasn’t canceled these Games because of this sickness,” she told AP. “Why? That’s what I ask myself and I still can’t find an answer.”
Guinea has never won a medal in the country’s previous 11 Olympics. North Korea is the only other country to pull out of the Games, also citing the pandemic.
The Olympics began Wednesday with softball and women’s soccer playing, and the opening ceremony takes place Friday. Tokyo has hit a six-month high in coronavirus cases, and there have been at least 67 people associated with the Olympics who have tested positive.
Several American athletes have been affected, too. Wizards guard Bradley Beal had to depart the basketball team due to the health and safety protocols, and tennis player Coco Gauff pulled out of the competition after testing positive. Two alternates for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team are also in isolation after one tested positive this week.