As the Tokyo Olympics finally get underway, Team GB has been given a clean bill of COVID health by its boss.

Mark England, Team GB’s Chef De Mission, told Sky News: “We have just shy of 800 athletes and team officials in country and not one has presented a positive test (for COVID). And that is absolute testament to everything that we’ve done in the fortnight before.

“My sense is that it would be extraordinary if a British athlete tested positive coming into the Olympic environment, primarily because outside of this testing protocols are significant.

The host nation’s softball team got things started against Australia in Fukushima

“That’s not to say that it is a guarantee, and that’s why absolutely everybody is on a daily basis, is working really, really hard to make sure that that does not happen.”

He also confirmed that the six Team GB athletes who were close contacts of somebody on their flight into Japan who tested positive should be able to compete in their events and are back in training.

“The athletes concerned can still go to our preparation camp training environment,” he said. “They can still train with the team as long as they adhere to social distancing as we are.

“And they can still, for those of them who are in the relay environment, they can still actually pass the baton.”

The Games, which many feared would be cancelled altogether, are going ahead after a year-long delay, despite ongoing protests in Japan, COVID-19 infections inside the Athletes’ Village and a spectator ban at almost all venues.

The host nation’s softball team got things started by thrashing Australia in Fukushima, the part of Japan devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

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Team GB boxer pretended to be a boy to train

Team GB’s women’s footballers started their tournament against Chile at 8.30am UK time.

The opening ceremony takes place on Friday in Tokyo but because there are so many games in softball/baseball and women’s football, those events start early.

Organisers have acknowledged that they cannot rule out significant disruption to the schedule or even cancelling the Games at this late stage.

But they are confident they have everything in place to deal with the COVID-19 problems that will almost inevitably arise.

So far, more than 70 Games participants who have arrived in Japan have tested positive – five of them inside the Olympic Village, which is supposed to be an ultra-safe environment.

The Czech beach volleyball team confirmed that one of their coaches tested positive, joining one of the Czech beach volleyball players already in isolation.

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Tokyo 2020 will be unlike any Games before

Two South African footballers and their match analyst tested positive earlier, leading to 18 more teammates being told they were close contacts.

Olympics organisers have been trying hard to convince the Japanese people and the competitors that Tokyo 2020 is as safe as it can be. Tokyo is already under a state of emergency due to rising infection numbers.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has revealed that organisers had “sleepless nights” when they were deciding whether or not to go ahead.

He said: “Cancellation would have been easy. We could have drawn on the insurance policies we had taken out. But in fact, cancellation was never an option for us.

“The IOC never abandons the athletes.”

Team GB Weightlifters left to right
Emily Campbell (plasters on knees), Sarah Davies (black trousers),  Zoe Smith (adidas shorts) and Emily Muskett (yellow trainers).
Team GB weightlifters Emily Campbell, Sarah Davies, Zoe Smith, and Emily Muskett

Team GB weightlifter Emily Muskett told Sky News the restrictions and daily testing are just something the athletes are getting on with.

“It is the way of the world at the moment,” she said.

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Four British women who may make history in Tokyo

“We are used to it… we are used to protecting ourselves and competing in this environment.

“I’m just so glad it has gone ahead because there was a chance that it was going to be cancelled again. We don’t mind wearing masks and doing all these tests because we are achieving our dreams.”

The postponement of last summer’s event is estimated to have cost the organisers £2.5bn.

As for this year’s attempt, expect empty stadiums, unpredictable competitions, moments of intense sporting drama and the constant threat of COVID-19 disrupting the plans.


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