Various members of Fiji’s Olympic team will take a freight flight to Tokyo as COVID-19 restrictions have caused commercial flights to and from Pacific countries to dwindle.
The Olympians, including the defending gold-medal-winning men’s rugby sevens team, will arrive in Japan’s capital Thursday on a cargo plane that mainly transports frozen fish, the Associated Press reported.
Lorraine Mar, the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee chief executive, said that making travel arrangements for the Fiji athletes was a “logistical challenge.” About 51 athletes and officials, consisting mainly of the men’s and women’s rugby sevens team, will be on Thursday’s flight, Mar said.
The two teams were recently in Australia, where the men’s team won the Oceania Sevens title in Queensland two weeks ago, and were expected to travel directly to Tokyo from there. However, newly enacted COVID-19 regulations in Asia forced the teams to alter their travel arrangements.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Apart from the sevens teams, the Fiji team includes one track and field athlete, two swimmers, a female table tennis player and a judo competitor who currently is based in Japan.
Mar said dealing with athletes’ departures from Japan also is a challenge. The IOC requires athletes to vacate the Olympic village within 48 hours of the conclusion of their events.
Fiji has a flight booked from Tokyo to Nadi on July 29, after the sevens tournament has concluded and which could also carry other athletes who have been eliminated or have finished competing. Another flight is booked on Aug. 10.
Mar hopes the IOC will grant dispensation for athletes who are unable to immediately obtain flights home to remain in the village until travel is available.
Among other Pacific Island nations, Samoa has already withdrawn its three-member weightlifting team from the games because all are based in Samoa and the Samoan government is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in Japan. Eight Samoan athletes who are based overseas will still compete.
They comprise two boxers based in Australia, four sailors and canoeists based in New Zealand, a track athlete based in the United States and a judoka based in Japan.
Tonga will send six competitors, all but two of whom are based overseas. They include Pita Taufatofua—the “naked Tongan”—who was a bare-chested sensation when he carried the Tongan flag in the opening ceremony of the Rio games.
Taufatofua, who will compete in taekwondo in Tokyo, also represented Tonga in cross-country skiing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.