Tokyo Olympics: Early COVID-19 outbreaks in athletes' village leave organisers sweating

New Zealand's athletes are convinced they are safe, despite a growing number of infections in the athletes' village. 

But just days out from the opening, the village population is swelling with both athletes and COVID-19 cases, forcing the Olympic committee to admit there's no such thing as "zero risk", as it had earlier claimed. 

The Olympic village is a fortress, with extreme security measures. But COVID-19 is refusing to abide by the same rules. 

Athletes continue to arrive from around the globe, filling their high rise rooms in the village. The latest contingent of rowers, hockey players, and swimmers joining New Zealand's fearless Football Ferns, who moved in the day the first case was recorded.

"It was always going to be a risk for us," says star player Hannah Wilkinson. "We were all very, very aware of it and I think it's just a matter of controlling what we can control."

Control has also been a key word for the under pressure Olympic committee.

"[The Olympics village] is probably the most controlled population at this point in time anywhere in the world," says IOC operations director, Pierre Ducrey.

But there have already been more than 50 cases linked to the Games in Tokyo. At least one of those had been vaccinated. 

Three of the cases have come from the athletes' village, specifically the South Africa football camp.

"When we have a positive case, it means action, immediate action," says IOC executive director Christophe Dubi.

That action has landed six British athletes in isolation, having been identified as close contacts. 

The village was meant to be Tokyo’s safest place. Now, it's 'ground zero' for the Olympics outbreak.

The IOC had claimed there was "zero risk", but it's since changed its mind. 

"There is no such thing as zero risk and that we all agree," Dubai adds. "At the same time, the mingling and crossing of population is incredibly limited."

Inside the village, everyone is socially distanced and wears masks. Athletes leave their rooms for training, competition, and meals, and even then, they can only be in the dining hall for around 30 minutes at a time. 

Different countries could mix and mingle, but most are taking a cautious approach and avoiding it as much as possible.

Protests continue to plague IOC President Thomas Bach, who was met with hordes of placades, as he showed up to his own dedicated welcome banquet at the palace.

With no spectators allowed, Tokyo 2020 had been dubbed the “Quiet Games”, but to date, they've proven anything but.

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