COVID clouds Games

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

With opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Summer Olympics set for Friday, these Games will be punctuated with a plethora of question marks and concerns especially during a pandemic.

Athletes worldwide will be put in a “bubble,” similar to what the NBA did with its players last summer in Orlando, Fla. A “bubble” only seems to work if tightly regulated.

Concerns are clearly heightened when thousands of athletes are inside a country, which has failed to contain or even control COVID-19. Only 20.41% of Japan’s populous has been fully vaccinated.

On Sunday, Tokyo reported 1,008 new COVID-19 infections — the fifth straight day the number exceeded 1,000. Nearly every event at the Games will be held without fans because of the outbreak.

The South African men’s soccer team, set to face Japan on Thursday, had three positive tests upon arrival in Tokyo. The team is quarantining until it can be cleared.

A former South Korean gold-medal table tennis player became the first member of the International Olympic Committee to test positive.

Eighty percent of Japan’s population want the Games canceled or postponed because the pandemic rages on. Tokyo is operating under a state of emergency through Aug. 22. The Games will go on despite residents’ opposition and doctors’ warnings that hospitals could be flooded with COVID-19 patients.

Prominent U.S. athletes are not participating either because of illness, injury or the fear factor of becoming infected with COVID-19. And you can’t blame them.

It’s too late now to cancel or postpone the Summer Olympics — the 2020 Games are already 365 days in arrears — because NBC and its affiliates have invested billions to televise this global event.

These Games won’t be like the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. For instance, Olympic gold, silver and bronze winners, at the medals ceremony, will have to pick up their respective hardware delivered on a tray by an IOC official.

COVID-19 cases are up in every state in the U.S., except for South Dakota and Wyoming, two of the less densely populated states. Arkansas, Missouri and Florida have seen cases spike.

Unsuspecting American athletes in Tokyo could pick up the virus at Olympic venues shared by multiple performers from various countries and then unknowingly transmit germs to citizens when they return to the U.S. mainland.

The Olympics will be an extravaganza — and the show will go on — that the world has not seen since COVID-19 changed life some 16 months ago.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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