Olympics 2021: What happens if an athlete gets Covid-19?

A flag with the Olympic rings (pictured left) on it in Tokyo and (picture right) a security guard next to a Covid-19 sign in the Olympic village.
Here is everything you need to know about how Covid-19 can affect the Games and what happens to athletes if they test positive for Covid-19 in Tokyo. (Getty Images)

This year's Olympic Games will be like no other as nation's from across the globe travel to Japan under a cloud of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tokyo entered a state of emergency only days before 1,800 athletes and staff started to arrive in Japan for the Olympic Games.

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But a number of issues have wreaked havoc before the Games, which has only heightened tension in a country divided on whether the Olympics should even be taking place.

So what happens when an athlete or a staff member tests positive for Covid-19 in the Olympic village?

What happens before athletes arrive at the Olympic village?

Before an athlete arrives in the Olympic village, they must undergo a 96-hour and 72-hour Covid-19 test.

Australian tennis star Alex de Minaur withdrew from the Games last week after testing positive ahead of his arrival.

The same happened to US superstar Coco Gauff.

When athletes arrive they undergo a screening process.

Athletes, staff members and officials will be tested daily during the Games.

Hand sanitizers are pictured at the Main Press Center of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Hand sanitizers are pictured at the Main Press Center of the 2020 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

If an athlete is competing that day, they will be tested in the morning to ensure a negative result before coming into contact with others.

Everyone involved in the game will be in a 'soft quarantine' where they will be restricted to the Olympic venues, the village and the hotels.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said more than 80 per cent of all international visitors will be vaccinated upon arrival.

What happens if someone tests positive for Covid-19 in the village?

If an athlete tests positive in the village they will need to isolate and will be transported to the 'Tokyo 2020 isolation facility'.

Anybody in contact with the case two days before symptoms to the point they were tested, will also be tested.

Whether or not close contacts will be unable to compete in their events will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

What happens to the corresponding sporting event?

If an athlete tests positive for Covid-19, it will have varying impacts depending on what type of event they are competing in.

For athletes in an individual event (not knockout) tests positive, they will be withdrawn and it will go down as a 'Did Not Start' (DNS) result. The next highest ranked athlete will take their place.

In a single-day event, involving multiple legs such as marathons or weightlifting, the athlete will be withdrawn and it will go down as a 'Did Not Start' (DNS) result.

Flags of Team China and Portugal hanging on residential buildings in the athletes' village for the Tokyo Olympics.
Teams are arriving at the Olympic village with uncertainty over Covid-19 after news two positive cases were discovered in the Olympic village. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

For multi-day events, the next eligible athlete or team can take their place.

If a team is ruled out, the team they had to defeat to qualify for knockouts will take their place.

For sports that are knockout, such as boxing or tennis, the athlete or team ruled out will get a 'bye' and no one will take their place.

Has there been Covid-19 issues in the Olympic village so far?

While IOC President Thomas Bach said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes passing on the virus to Japanese or other residents of the village, this is already being put to the test.

On the weekend, two South African football players became the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for Covid-19, and other cases connected to the Tokyo Games were also confirmed Sunday.

News of the cases sparked alarm amongst organisers.

Activists march outside of the Olympic village only days before the start of the Tokyo Games.
Protesters march outside of the Olympic village during a demonstration against the forthcoming Tokyo Olympic Games on July 16, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)

The two players, and a team video analyst who tested positive, were moved to the 'Tokyo 2020 isolation facility'.

The other members of the football team are now in isolation.

South African officials confirmed all players had tested negative for Covid-19, per protocol before arriving, which highlights the concern many Japanese residents have over the safety of the Games.

“Team officials and management have followed all relevant Olympic Playbook rules, protocols and procedures throughout the pre-Games and Games arrival routines,” the South African Olympic committee said.

Coach Neil Powell and the entire South Africa rugby squad were held at a quarantine facility after arriving in Japan because of a positive Covid test on their flight, Team South Africa said.

They were cleared to leave, only for Powell to test positive a few days later.

Anyone that tests positive before or during the Games will have to quarantine for two weeks under Japanese regulations.

Tokyo reported 1,008 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the 29th straight day that cases were higher than seven days previously.

It was also the fifth straight day with more than 1,000 cases.

The Olympics will open under a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures.

No fans will be able to attend the events in Tokyo and the three neighbouring precincts.

with AP

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