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Team GB frustrated with Olympic chiefs as Tokyo 10 struggle in isolation

The Guardian - Thu Jul 22 11:00

Team GB officials are increasingly exasperated with the refusal of Tokyo 2020 authorities to say when the 10 British athletes and staff who have been forced to self-isolate at these Olympics for nearly a week can be released.

It comes as the steeplechaser Zak Seddon admitted he was struggling mentally after spending the last six days in his room at the UK Athletics camp in Yokohama, only being allowed out to train.

Six Team GB track and field athletes and four staff are having to self-isolate, despite repeatedly testing negative, after being pinged as close contacts of an infected passenger on their flight to Tokyo. It is understood that while eight of the 10 are in Yokohama and allowed out to train, there are two medical staff in the official Olympic village who are confined to their rooms 24 hours a day. All face the prospect of isolating for 14 days despite showing no symptoms.

Seddon made his frustrations clear in a tweet to this writer, which said: “We’ve been stuck inside for six days now with 11 negative tests and all double vaccinated. Shocked we’re not allowed back into a Covid safe environment. My Olympic experience will be spent alone, bar a few socially distanced hours a day.”

The steeplechaser Zak Seddon says he is struggling mentally and shocked at the rigid isolation rules.
The steeplechaser Zak Seddon says he is struggling mentally and shocked at the rigid isolation rules. Photograph: Alex Livesey - British Athletics/British Athletics/Getty Images for British Athletics

The 27-year-old also took issue with comments made by his fellow athlete Jessie Knight to the Guardian on Wednesday, in which Knight had suggested that self-isolation for her had not been too strenuous as everything she had needed had been instantly dropped off to her room. “You’d pay a lot of money for this room service so I’m not complaining,” she joked.

Seddon, however, was clearly not impressed. “Article makes me so mad,” he wrote. “So undermining to those of us who are struggling with this situation, thrive off of social interaction, and perform our best when we get the stimulus from the championship environment.”

The British Olympic Association has further stepped up its mental health provision for those affected – and is now seeking an urgent timeline from the Japanese medical authorities over when they can be released. It is understood the BOA is particularly frustrated as it was told by the Japanese organisers that every case would be assessed on its merits, based on test results, vaccination status and where those involved were staying. In practice it has experienced a very different process, with a rigid 14-day isolation period in place.

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A BOA spokesperson said: “First of all, we acknowledge how difficult this situation is for the athletes and staff members affected. We are in constant dialogue with Tokyo 2020 to establish a course of action – based on multiple daily negative tests, and a rigorous set of Covid-19 protocols in our environment – that allows for our athletes to be reintegrated into training safely. We will continue to seek urgent clarification.”

Meanwhile Guinea has decided not to send its entire delegation of five athletes to Tokyo, apparently due to the pandemic in the country.

Announcing the decision, the Guinean sports minister Sanoussy Bantama Sow said: “Due to the resurgence of Covid-19 variants, the government, concerned with preserving the health of Guinean athletes, has decided with regret to cancel Guinea’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics.”

It has been reported, however, that the decision was also down to financial restrictions, with a source close to the government telling Agence France-Presse “the Ministry cannot pay”.