Positive COVID-19 case delays Olympic refugee team’s arrival in Tokyo

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TTokyo's first Olympic test event of 2021, an artistic swimming competition scheduled for March, was postponed on Thursday for two months because of travel restrictions. /GettyImages

The refugee Olympic team due to compete at the Tokyo Games this month has delayed its arrival to Japan following a positive COVID-19 case by a team official in Qatar, the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday.

Some 26 of the 29 refugees are in a training camp in Qatar and will now remain there along with 10 of the 11 officials. The infected official has been quarantined and is without symptoms, the IOC said.

“As a consequence, it was decided that the team would currently not travel to Tokyo and will continue their training in Doha while being tested daily,” the IOC said in a statement.

The team, which will compete under the Olympic flag and include people from countries including Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iran, is almost three times as big as the inaugural team at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, with a total of 29 athletes competing in 12 sports.

The athletes, who will march into the stadium during the opening ceremony in second place behind ancient Games founders Greece, were selected from a pool of 56, supported by Olympic scholarships from 13 different countries.

The IOC unveiled its first refugee team at the Rio Games to raise awareness of the issue as hundreds of thousands of people were pouring into Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere escaping conflict and poverty.

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