Some might say the Tokyo Olympics was doomed from the start. The number of COVID-19 cases inside the Olympic Village is climbing at such a quick pace that the Olympics committee has started an online ticker to keep track.
Early Monday, the toll finally hit home for Team USA: Kara Eaker, an alternate member of the women’s gymnastics team, has tested positive for COVID-19, putting the whole team at risk of missing their competition as they self-isolate. The infection was detected in the city of Narita, about 35 miles from the main Olympic venue.
Eaker’s coach, Al Fong, confirmed to the Associated Press that the 18-year-old had tested positive, adding that she received a COVID-19 vaccine two months ago. The gymnast is now in isolation along with fellow Olympic alternate Leanne Wong, whom Fong also coaches.
The U.S. team did not identify the infected athlete in its own statement, but said, “The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority.” “We can confirm that an alternate on the women’s artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement reads. “In alignment with local rules and protocols, the athlete has been transferred to a hotel to quarantine. Out of respect for the individual’s privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.”
The alternates are Eaker, Wong, Kayla DiCello, and Emma Malabuyo.
Wong, 17, made headlines when she said she was not vaccinated and didn’t intend to be after she was selected for the team.
As the news came, Olympic favorite Simone Biles posted a picture of herself, masked, inside the Olympic Village, as part of what was reported to be a team photo op.
NBC News reported the test result came as the athlete was training in Narita. She is between the age of 10 and 19, it reported.
Biles, who won four golds in Rio, is 24 years old.
USA Today’s top sports columnist Nancy Armour later confirmed that the COVID-19 positive case was detected in a team alternate—which she deduced as the starting team was in the middle of posting on social media. “Given the six members are all currently posting photos from the Olympic Village, would suggest it’s not a team member but an alternate,” Armour tweeted earlier.
Over the weekend, three South African soccer players joined the 44 positive cases already reported among staff, athletes, trainers, and media who undergo regular testing. Six British athletes and two staffers are isolating after someone tested positive on their flight to Japan and American tennis sensation Coco Gauff had to bow out after testing positive Sunday.
In an unprecedented move for a billion-dollar deal, Japanese auto giant Toyota has decided it won’t be running any Olympics-related advertisements during the upcoming games. The message one of the IOC’s biggest corporate sponsors is trying to send is clear: The games must not go on.
Tokyo is also under a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases surge, fed by the highly contagious Delta variant, causing concerns in the city that these games should not go on.
“There are many issues with these games that are proving difficult to be understood,” Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata said Monday announcing the pullback. The company founder’s grandson and Chief Executive Akio Toyoda also announced he would be skipping the opening ceremony even though the company privately sponsors more than 200 athletes.
Toyota has spent more than $1 billion in an eight-year Olympics sponsorship deal that will cover the games all the way to 2024. By not participating in promoting the games through its advertisements, it could be in breach of their contract.
“There is a mixed public sentiment towards the games,” Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said Monday, according to the AP. “I need to emphasize that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020. They are passionate about making these games happen.”