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Sunday , October 17 2021

Tokyo Olympics torch relay has first positive COVID-19 case

TOKYO, April 22, (AP): Tokyo Olympics organizers said Thursday that a policeman tested positive for COVID-19 a day after his assignment last week at the Olympic torch relay. It is the first positive test connected to the relay since it began March 25 from northeastern Fukushima prefecture. Organizers say the policeman, who is in his 30s, was assigned to control traffic on the April 17 leg in southwestern Kagawa prefecture.

Organizers hold signs to spectators that read: ‘Avoid crowding! Wear masks’ during the Tokyo Olympic torch relay in Tobe, Ehime prefecture, southwestern Japan, on April 22. (AP)

They said the officer developed symptoms and tested positive the next day. Local health authorities are investigating. Officials say the policeman was wearing a mask and taking social-distancing precautions and other measures. The report comes as Japan is preparing to declare a third state of emergency in western metropolitan areas around Osaka, and in Tokyo. It is expected on Friday and is being reinstated after current measures failed to slow the latest resurgence fueled by a new, more contagious variant of the virus detected earlier in Britain. Japan had 541,496 cases and 9,710 deaths as of Tuesday. These results are good by global standard but poor in Asia. Without compulsory lockdowns, people in Japan have become less cooperative with preventive measures.

The organizers said all participants and officials are taking the best precautions and that the case will not affect the subsequent legs of the torch events. The torch relay involves 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four month, ending at the arrival at the National Stadium on July 23 to kick off the scheduled opening ceremony. For precautions, legs last week were run in a city park in Osaka and taken off the public streets. Something similar is expected for some legs on May 1-2 on the southern island of Okinawa. Meanwhile, Athlete protests and political messages will remain banned at the Olympics, the IOC said Wednesday, after a survey found that a majority of competitors were in favor of keeping the ban in place. That means raising a fist on the podium – like American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously did at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – or taking a knee would still risk punishment at the Tokyo Games this year.

The IOC said it surveyed more than 3,500 athletes over the past year and that 70% said it was “not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views” on the field of play or at the opening or closing ceremony. The survey also showed 67% of respondents disapproved of podium demonstrations. The IOC has not said what consequences athletes may face for protesting, but a “proportionate” range of punishments will be drafted before the games, said Kirsty Coventry, who represents athletes on the IOC executive board. Smith and Carlos were both expelled from the 1968 Olympics after their salute. Upholding Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at the games, puts the IOC at odds with Olympic officials in the United States. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in December it will not take action if athletes raise their fists or kneel during the national anthem at their event trials before Tokyo.

The American Olympic body, which inducted Smith and Carlos into its Hall of Fame in 2019, eased its stance after athletes asked for the right to express themselves on racial and social justice issues. While the USOPC guidelines allow athletes to wear apparel showing phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” the language is more limited in the IOC guidance published Wednesday. Approved words on T-shirts and elsewhere in Tokyo are “peace, respect, solidarity, inclusion and equality,” the IOC said. Coventry, a former Olympic swimming champion who is now sports minister in Zimbabwe, said the survey and research conducted by the IOC Athletes’ Commission was guided by independent experts on human rights and social sciences. The IOC research consulted offi- cially recognized athlete panels from national Olympic committees and sports governing bodies – a process that restricted input from activist athletes. Other concessions agreed Wednesday include adding references to “inclusion and equality” in the Olympic Oath read at the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23.

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