Ugandan Weightlifter with Hopes of Qualifying in Japan Goes Missing

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Questions are being raised over Japanese organizers’ oversight of Olympic participants, as Julius Ssekitoleko, an Ugandan weightlifter, has gone missing in western Japan on Friday. 

With local coronavirus concerns growing amidst rising infection rates, the missing 20-year-old man has his teammates concerned as officials begin their search within the Izumisano, Osaka prefecture. Teammates realized the athlete was absent around noon Friday when his saliva test sample was not delivered and they found his hotel room empty, city officials said.

There was no training Friday morning and he was last seen in his room in the early hours of July 16.

Officials and teammates were unable to locate him within the hotel, as the latter notified police for a broader search. There was no 24-hour monitoring at the hotel, and exactly when or how he got out of the hotel was unknown.

The Olympics begin on July 23 despite mounting concern about Tokyo’s upsurge of infections. As of this past week, the host city reported 1,271 cases, after hitting a six-month high at 1,308 in the same timeframe. 

Members of the Ugandan team have tested positive and were quarantined at Narita International Airport on June 19, while the remaining members were allowed to travel more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) on a chartered bus to Izumisano, where their pre-Olympics camp is located. 

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Around that same time, a second member of the team from East Africa tested positive for the virus, forcing seven town officials and drivers who had close contact with the team to self-isolate. Health officials said both infected Ugandans had the Delta variant.

Since then, both team members have ended their quarantine requirement, were cleared to train with the others, and have been doing so since July 7.

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