Australia's Olympics Saved as 60 Athletes Freed From COVID Isolation at Final Hour

Australia's track and field team at the Tokyo Olympics has been cleared to compete at the games following negative COVID tests, after all of its members were forced into isolation when Team USA pole vaulter Sam Kendricks tested positive.

All 63 members of Australia's team were confined to their rooms on Thursday and were forced to undergo tests for COVID less than 24 hours before the track and field events at the games were scheduled to start, a statement from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed.

The decision for the whole of Australia's track and field team to isolate came after Kendricks tested positive for COVID, forcing him to withdraw from the games. Kendricks had been training with Australian pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall prior to his positive result.

The Australian, alongside two teammates who also came into contact with Kendricks, were tested for COVID as the rest of the track and field team were forced to isolate.

However, in a statement later in the day, the AOC confirmed that the Australian team had been cleared to compete in the games after Marschall and the two unnamed athletes returned negative test results.

The three athletes will stay in isolation and be tested daily, while the rest of the team has been cleared to leave the hotel room. The AOC said that "at this stage all athletes are expected to compete as planned."

(1/3) The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. We are saddened to confirm that Sam Kendricks tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

— USOPC News (@USOPC_News) July 29, 2021

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) confirmed on Twitter that Kendricks had been forced to pull out of the games and said that "the health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority."

"We are saddened to confirm that Sam Kendricks tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," the USOPC tweeted on Thursday.

"In alignment with local rules and protocols, he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF (USA Track & Field) and USOPC staff.

"Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."

In a statement on Thursday, USA Track & Field said: "We are following the guidance on next steps to ensure the safety of the remainder of our delegation, and to offer support to Sam."

Several Olympic athletes have tested positive for COVID since arriving in Tokyo for the games, while the city reported 3,117 new daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

That figure is a record since the start of the pandemic and a 229 percent rise on the daily case count reported on the first official day of the games.

Managing Covid at the Olympics

Tokyo hosting the Olympics has caused controversy over the last few weeks, with a recent poll by a Japanese newspaper finding that 68 percent of people said that they had doubts about the organizers being able to control COVID infections during the games.

The survey found that 55 percent completely opposed the Olympics going ahead in Tokyo, while about three-quarters of the 1,444 respondents said that the decision to ban spectators from events was the right one.

Only about one-quarter of Japan's more than 120 million population is fully vaccinated.

However, officials in Japan have repeatedly dismissed the possibility of cancelling the games, as on Tuesday Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters: "The flow of people is decreasing. There's no worry."

Newsweek has contacted the AOC for comment.

Australia freed to compete in Olympics
Kurtis Marschall of Australia celebrates in the Men's Pole Vault final on day eight of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Stadium on April 12, 2018, on the Gold Coast, Australia. Marschall returned a negative COVID test on Thursday after coming into close contact with an athlete who tested positive. Getty Images/Cameron Spencer