Once again, the pandemic is threatening to derail this year’s Tokyo Olympics, with athletes testing positive, getting put into Covid-19 health and safety protocols, and getting put into quarantine. The virus has claimed another victim of the US men’s basketball team.
On Monday, Team USA guard Zach LaVine was put into Covid-19 health and safety protocols, and he did not travel to Tokyo on the same flight with his teammates. Unfortunately for Team USA, LaVine is the third player on their roster to be affected in the past week, as Bradley Beal will completely miss the Olympics due to Covid-19 exposure, and Jerami Grant was placed in safety protocols and quarantine last week (but he still remains on the Olympic roster.)
Team USA said in a statement, “Out of an abundance of caution, USA Basketball Men’s National Team member Zach LaVine has been placed under USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols and will not travel with the team to Tokyo today. USA Basketball hopes that Zach will be able to join the team in Tokyo later this week.”
Team USA is scheduled to play their first Olympic match on July 25 against France. If LaVine is unable to rejoin his team in Tokyo, it may be impossible for him to be replaced, putting the Olympic basketball team in an extremely tough and difficult position.
A lot of extremely strict protocols have been implemented to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and due to these protocols, a handful of American athletes have been forced to or chosen to withdraw from the Olympics. The aforementioned Bradley Beal, basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson, gymnast Kara Eaker, and tennis player Coco Gauff all announced their withdrawal from the Games after testing positive for Covid-19.
COVID-19 outbreaks are also affecting athletes and programs in other countries, with the Olympic Village in Tokyo getting their first resident test positive this past Friday. Japan is currently struggling to vaccinate its population as Covid-19 numbers and cases spike. Fans have officially been banned from attending to watch the Olympic Games, and according to ESPN, a majority of Japan’s population supports canceling the Games altogether.
“It’s costing people opportunities of a lifetime. It sucks,” forward Draymond Green said. “We all came in hoping we wouldn’t be affected by it. It’s just not the way it’s gone.”
Unfortunately, Covid-19 clearly still poses an extremely significant threat to the Olympics. Hopefully, they will still happen in a safe, cautious, breakout-free fashion, and hopefully, Zach LaVine will still be able to play with Team USA after his quarantine ends. The world has been waiting for two years for the Tokyo Olympics, and sports fans will surely be disappointed and disheartened if they end up getting canceled. With the start of the 2021 Olympic Games, we have finally gotten a small glimpse of normalcy, but Covid-19 still threatens to derail everything.