Protesters hold a 'No Olympics' banner during a protest against the Tokyo Olympics on May 9, 2021 in Tokyo.
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images
  • The Tokyo Olympics could still be cancelled, even though they have already started.
  • Olympic organisers have refused to rule out cancelling the games, as Covid case numbers rise.
  • 91 Covid cases have already been linked to the games, and this number is expected to rise.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

From rising Covid levels to athletes complaining about their cardboard beds to the opening ceremony director being fired for antisemitic comments, the Tokyo Olympics have been the most shambolic in decades, and things could still get worse.

With some events already starting and just a day to go until the opening ceremony, there is still a very realistic chance that the games may be cancelled as Covid cases in the Olympic Village and the whole of Japan continue to rise.

When the games officially open on Friday, they will do so in front of an empty stadium, a reminder of the disastrous build-up the organisers, and Tokyo residents, have endured.

The situation could still worsen as Covid levels continue to grow in the Olympic Village and health experts fear the Covid-secure bubble around the games has already been broken.

"It's obvious that the bubble system is kind of broken," Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King's College London, told Reuters earlier this week.

"My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people."

The troubles surrounding the Olympics began last year when the Covid-19 pandemic forced organisers to delay the games by a year, reportedly costing them 294 billion yen (around R41 billion) in the process.

A year on and the virus continues to cause chaos.

On Wednesday, Chilean taekwondo athlete Fernanda Aguirre and Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs became the first Olympians to be ruled out of competing after testing positive for Covid since arriving in Japan.

They join a growing list of infections emanating from an outbreak in the Olympic Village. Two South African men's soccer players tested positive, meaning 24 people associated with the squad are in isolation, and six British athletes are also self-isolating after coming in contact with someone who had Covid-19.

As of Thursday, 91 cases have been linked to the games, the Associated Press reports, while dozens more athletes have been forced to withdraw after testing positive before flying to Tokyo, such as American tennis star Coco Gauff who dropped out last week.

Although the games are still slated to go ahead, an 11th hour cancellation remains possible, and a cancellation after the opening ceremony could also materialise as the organising chief refused to rule out a final-hour decision.

"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," Olympic chief Toshiro Muto said on Tuesday.

Muto made the comments when there were just 71 cases of Covid-19 linked to the games, 20 fewer than Thursday's number.

Games could be hit with NBA-style final-hour postponement

The Tokyo 2020 boss said he will watch rising COVID infection levels.
Behrouz Mehri - Pool/Getty Images

Even if the opening ceremony goes ahead as planned, there is no guarantee the games would not be stopped mid-tournament if Covid cases continue to rise and more and more athletes are unable to compete.

Given the almost constant nature of the Olympic schedule, it seems likely that if the games were to be called off after they have begun events would need to be stopped part-way through.

If a dramatic cancellation or postponement were to happen, it would mirror the 2019-20 NBA season which was suspended shortly before tip off in the Utah Jazz - Oklahoma City Thunder game.

As the players were warming up, they were told that Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive, pushing the NBA to delay the season until July.

The Tokyo Olympics already has already been the most shambolic games this century, and it isn't just Covid causing issues.

The opening ceremony is in chaos after director Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed for previously making antisemitic comments and on Wednesday, Australian showjumper Jamie Kermond was provisionally suspended after testing positive for cocaine.

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