Guinea backs out of Tokyo Olympics ahead of opening ceremony, citing COVID-19 pandemic

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Guinea won’t be participating in the Olympics after all.

The African nation officially backed out of the Tokyo Games, and cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as its reasoning.

Bantama Sow, the Guinea Minister of Sports, wrote a letter explaining the move to the president of the Guinean Olympic committee on Wednesday.

“Due to the resurgence of COVID variants, the government, concerned with preserving the health of Guinean athletes, has decided with regret to cancel Guinea’s participation in the 32nd Olympics scheduled for Tokyo,” the statement said, via The Associated Press.

While the country officially cited the pandemic, the AFP reported that funding for the athletes and the rest of the delegation was a significant issue, too. Funds for the delegation, per The Associated Press, were only released “days before” the decision to withdraw.

Guinea was set to send five athletes to Tokyo — freestyle wrestler Fatoumata Yarie Camara, swimmers Mamadou Tahirou Bah and Fatoumata Lamarana Toure, runner Aissata Deen Conte and judo competitor Mamadou Samba Bah. The country has yet to win a medal in its 11 Olympic appearances.

“The question I ask myself is why has Guinea decided not to participate in the Olympic Games on the grounds of coronavirus when the organizing country like Japan hasn’t canceled these Games because of this sickness,” Camara told The Associated Press. “Why? That’s what I ask myself and I still can’t find an answer.”

The pandemic has been front and center leading up to the games, and it has already impacted several American athletes. The United States women’s gymnastics team has its two alternates isolating after one of them tested positive earlier this week, and beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb tested positive and is now expected to return home to Hawaii.

The men’s basketball team already lost Bradley Beal to the health and safety protocols, and had multiple others placed in protocols before they were allowed to travel with the team to Tokyo — including Jerami Grant and Zach LaVine. Tennis star Coco Gauff tested positive, too, and withdrew from the games.

Japan is averaging more than 3,500 new cases each day as of Thursday, according to The New York Times, which is about a 112% increase over the past two weeks. Only about 23% of the population is fully vaccinated.

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