Olympics Venue Faces Oyster 'Plague' Costing $1.28 Million in Repairs

In the latest Olympics news, an unexpected guest to one venue has threatened a number of water-based events, leaving staff on high alert. The culprit? An edible species of oyster, considered a delicacy in Japan. The potential for oyster-related disruption comes as another blow to the controversial 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which also faces rising COVID-19 infections and the loss of backing from its top sponsor.

According to BBC News, the oyster invasion is impacting the the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, the future site of Olympic canoeing and rowing events. Officials first noticed last year that floats, put in place to prevent waves from interfering with athletes, were beginning to sink. Upon further investigation, they realized that the mollusks had attached themselves to the floats in droves.

Emergency repairs relating to this issue have already cost the Olympics committee $1.28 million, says The Independent—resulting in 14 tons of oysters being removed from the area, using equipment that extended across 5.6 kilometers.

The news outlet added that it's likely the oysters thrived in Tokyo Bay due to the water's high salinity levels.

Now, staffers are reportedly making last-minute checks to the venue's equipment, to ensure the oysters cause no further damage before the games start on Friday.

The oysters in question, however, were not just any old mollusks—rather, they were "magaki" oysters, a type which is often enjoyed in winter months. The crop, according to BBC News, could have easily been worth "tens of thousands of dollars"—but they were never considered for sale or consumption by officials.

"That would entail safety checks. More important is that we do not want to grow oysters but work to contain them," said an anonymous official, reported The Independent.

In any case, summer is known to not be the ideal oyster-eating season. According to Science Daily, the tradition of only eating oysters in winter—and specifically in months that contain the letter 'r'—dates back at least 4,000 years.

The potential for oyster infestation comes as just the latest obstacle faced by the long-delayed Tokyo Olympics. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise among those working at the Olympic Games: 55 staffers have tested positive since July 1. Additionally, a number of athletes, not included in the count, have also reportedly caught the virus, including two South African soccer players inside the Olympic Village.

Olympics Logo
The Olympics logo in front of the International Olympic Committee headquarters, March 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

As a result of the crisis, spectators have been banned from both outdoor and indoor Olympic venues.

As of Monday, Toyota, the Olympics' biggest sponsor, announced that the company would be withdrawing all of its TV ads relating to the Games. The news comes as controversy surrounding the event rises: according to a poll conducted by an Asahi newspaper, 55% of participants felt that the games should not go ahead as planned.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23 and last until August 8.