More woes for the Tokyo Olympics see all spectators banned, and Fiji’s team arriving in a cargo plane full of fish

Jul 9, 2021

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The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics has already encountered unprecedented problems, well before the Olympic torch arrives in town. They are the first Olympic Games to be postponed and rescheduled (by a year) due to the pandemic, and then foreign spectators were officially banned.

Related: It’s official: Japan won’t allow overseas visitors to attend Tokyo Olympics

The latest outbreak of the COVID-19 forced officials to ban all spectators from attending most Olympic events and declare a state of emergency.

Some Olympic events held outside of covid hotspots like Tokyo may be able to host a small number of local spectators, though this year’s Olympics will look very little like what is traditionally a global celebration of sport.

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Most of Japan’s population has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and despite strict safety measured and entry conditions, health experts fear the flood of athletes and support staff from virtually every country in the world, could become a superspreader event.

For some countries dealing with their own virus outbreaks, just getting to Japan to compete has taken an Olympian effort. In this regard, Fiji’s Olympic squad may have earned a gold medal for how it managed to make the journey to Tokyo. You see, the team was forced to make the trip Thursday night on a freight plane, alongside crates of frozen fish.

That’s right. Frozen fish.

The reason why Team Fiji had to fly cargo was simply that it was next to impossible to get a flight out of their home country at the moment. Fiji has been hit especially hard by the Delta variant of the virus. According to the New York Times, Fiji has been recording an average of 57 new COVID cases each day per 100,000.

Making matters worse, just six percent of residents have been fully vaccinated.

To help contain the spread of the virus, nearly all commercial flights out of Fiji have been suspended until the end of July. The Olympics begin July 23, so the Olympic squad had to scramble to make the games.

Around midnight Thursday, around 50 athletes and officials from Fiji, including the men’s and women’s rugby sevens squads, packed onto a cargo plane leaving from Nadi International Airport (NAN), Fiji’s primary air hub, bound for Tokyo and a shot at Olympic glory. It’s fairly certain they are the only Olympic squad that had to share cabin space with crates of fish.

Before they boarded the flight, team members had to spend 96 hours in isolation and take PCR tests 72 hours before their departure, to adhere to the protocols set by officials in Tokyo.

One official with the Fiji Olympic team tested positive and could not make the trip.

Fiji’s athletes are competing in six events at the Summer Games, including archery, judo and table tennis. The men’s rugby unit will be looking to defend the gold medal they won back in 2016, the first Olympic medal in Fiji’s history.

If that happens, let’s hope they are able to book a regular commercial flight back home.

Featured image by: Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

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