Tokyo Olympic leadership promises to improve “prison-like” quarantine facilities for athletes

Organizers said they are working to improve conditions for Olympic athletes quarantined due to Covid.

Many athletes have reportedly complained about the lack of basic necessities like fresh air and food while being quarantined for Covid infection. Candy Jacobs, a Dutch skateboarder tested positive for Covid early in the Games, called the conditions “inhumane.”

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A coalition of athletes from Germany, Athleten Deutschland, have petitioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remedy the situation. 

“It… appears grotesque that athletes who test positive have to spend their quarantine in prison-like conditions, while IOC members stay in expensive luxury hotels and are provided with high daily allowances,” said Maximilian Klein, a representative for Athleten Deutschland.

In addition to the complaints about poor food quality and lack of access to fresh air, athletes also reported a lack of training facilities, no access to laundry facilities, and tiny living spaces.

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“In the current quarantine hotel, for example, there is an insufficient provision of fresh air. The food supply is neither rich nor balanced and does not meet the specific nutritional requirements of high-performance athletes,” Athleten Deutschland said in a statement.

The organization specified further concerns, saying, “It is unclear to [the athletes] what the exact procedure of quarantine is and what steps have to be taken after it is over.”

“It’s unfortunately [sic] for all of us but particularly also the athletes the extra measures that have to be taken in terms of isolation and we fully sympathize with everyone who’s had to go through this,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams responded.

“There are certain regulations that the Japanese health authorities imposed – we can’t do much about that – but there are things that can be done,” he continued.

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Masa Takaya, a spokesperson for the Games, said that conditions are currently being addressed, additional space had been provided for quarantined athletes, and teammates of those quarantined were permitted to deliver food.

“The situation has been improved and we are trying to implement a more flexible approach to accommodate these positive cases,” Takaya said. “We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to them. It must be a heart-wrenching feeling [to test positive at the Olympics].”

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Many staff and athletes have already tested positive for Covid and have been subsequently quarantined at the Tokyo Games. There were 21 new cases on Saturday alone, though not all were athletes. There have been 241 total Olympics-related cases since July 1.