Tokyo Olympics: Games have power to bring 'world together' as Japan gets off to a winning start

Japan's Minori Naito, center, celebrates with her teammates after hitting a two run home run during the softball game between Japan and Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Credit: AP

Japan is “giving courage to the whole world" the head of the World Health Organization has said as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games got off to a winning start for the host nation, with the country's softball team beating Australia in the opening game. As Covid continues to cast a long shadow over this Games, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by infections as "eliminating risk is impossible".

In a speech to the International Olympic Committee meeting, Dr Tedros said it was not how many cases there were that was more important but how they are handled and that the Games had the "power to bring the world together, to inspire, to show what is possible". There were 79 Games-linked Covid-19 cases in Japan by Wednesday, with more international athletes, including US tennis star Coco Gauff, forced to pull out after testing positive.

Six athletes from the Team GB squad are self-isolating after sharing a flight with someone who has since tested positive for Covid.

The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted,” Dr Tedros said.

“There is no zero risk in life,” he added. Health experts in Japan have warned of the Olympics becoming a “super-spreader” event bringing tens of thousands of athletes, officials and workers into the country during a local state of emergency. The WHO leader also called on rich nations to share vaccines more fairly saying it was a “horrifying injustice” that 75% of jabs delivered globally were in only 10 countries.

A steward watches from the empty grandstands during the softball game between Japan and Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics Credit: AP

He predicted there would be more than 100,000 Covid deaths worldwide before the Olympic flame goes out in Tokyo on 8 August. “The pandemic is a test and the world is failing,” Dr Tedros said. Dr Tedros warned anyone who believed the pandemic was over because it was under control in their part of the world lived in “a fool’s paradise.” The world needs to produce 11 billion Covid vaccine doses next year and the WHO wants governments to help reach a target of vaccinating 70% of people in every country by the middle of next year. “The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it,” Dr Tedros said. “It is in our hands.”

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