Sydney – Samoa’s Olympic committee said on Thursday it was withdrawing its weightlifting team from the Tokyo Games, set to start in just over three weeks, because of COVID-19 restrictions, but added that other athletes already overseas would attend.
The withdrawal represents the latest setback for Japan’s fraught efforts to stage the world’s biggest sporting event during a pandemic.
“The only team that cannot travel is the weightlifting team, which is based here in Samoa,” Patrick Fepuleai, the president of the Pacific nation’s Olympic committee, told Reuters by telephone.
“We are still under a state of emergency, we’re in lockdown.”
Samoa, however, will have a presence at the games, he said.
“We are still sending a team to the Olympics,” he added. “Our teams are scattered all around.”
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is set for July 23, but many in Japan are still opposed to holding the games, as medical experts have warned it could unleash another wave of infections and spawn new, more potent variants.
“It’s terrible, it’s disheartening, it’s very disheartening,” Samoa’s weightlifting boss, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, said about the decision.
“I will now speak to my lifters this afternoon and share the very bad news.”
Tokyo’s new infections rose to 714 on Wednesday, the highest in more than a month, as domestic media said officials were weighing an extension of prevention measures for as much as a month beyond July 12, the current end date.
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