Japan Olympic Committee deputy chief Kozo Tashima said Tuesday he had contracted coronavirus, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the Summer Games.
“Today, my test result showed positive for the new coronavirus,” Tashima said in a statement, issued via the Japan Football Association, which he also heads.
“I have a mild fever. Examinations showed a symptom of pneumonia, but I’m fine. I will concentrate on treatment following doctors’ advice,” he said.
Japanese officials insist that the summer Games — due to start in July — will take place as scheduled despite rising speculation that it might be postponed or even cancelled due to the virus.
Tashima said he had been on a business trip since February 28, first heading to Belfast to attend the annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB).
From March 2, he visited Amsterdam for a Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) meeting to give a presentation on Japan’s bid for the 2023 women’s World Cup.
And On March 3, he attended a general meeting of the same body.
“In Amsterdam and in Europe in early March, the level of nervousness against the novel coronavirus was not the same as now,” he said in the statement.
“Everyone was still doing hugs, handshakes and bises (cheek kissing).”
He then travelled to the United States to watch the Japanese women’s team in action and to lobby for the women’s World Cup, before returning home on March 8.
“In the United States, too, the sense of crisis about the novel coronavirus was not as serious as now,” he said.
Staff at the Japan FA have been working from home as a precaution against the virus, but Tashima said he went to the association building several times last week and attended meetings.
He began feeling chills and experienced a mild fever from Sunday. He went to a local public health centre on Monday and told them about his travel history.
During the UEFA gatherings, Tashima said he saw Swiss and Serbian football chiefs, who have tested positive for the virus, although he added it was not clear how he contracted the infection.
His positive test came out on Tuesday.
“I have chosen to face the illness as so many people are doing in Japan and around the world,” he said, adding that he hoped his decision would help eradicate the stigma attached to the infection.
His announcement came as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said it would scale down festivities related to the Olympic torch relay to prevent further spread of the virus.
The flame, which has already been lit in Greece, will arrive in northern Japan on Friday, with the torch relay slated to start on March 26 from Fukushima.
Chief executive Toshiro Muto told reporters that the Fukushima “grand start” would take place without spectators “in order to prevent the spread of infections”.
Any spectators who are feeling unwell will be asked not to watch from the roadside and torch-bearers with high temperatures will be barred from taking part, Tokyo 2020 organizers said.
“Please be careful to avoid forming crowds,” organisers urged, saying the program could be changed in the event of “excessive congestion”.
Ceremonies to mark the flame’s arrival at its final destination each day, as well as departure ceremonies, will take place without fans.
So-called “welcome programs” by local municipalities will be scrapped.
The flame is set to arrive on March 20 in Miyagi prefecture north of Tokyo, following the traditional lighting ceremony in Greece which took place without spectators.
Only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee were allowed to attend the ceremony, whereas 700 had originally planned to attend.
Greece cancelled its leg of the torch relay after large crowds gathered to see the flame, despite repeated pleas to stay away.
Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, who starred as the ancient Spartan King Leonidas in the movie “300”, was mobbed as he lit a cauldron in the city of Sparta.
Japan also decided not to send a delegation to the Olympic flame handover ceremony in Greece later this week due to virus concerns, local media said.
The delegation, including Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori and Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, had been scheduled to attend the ceremony on Thursday in Athens