Virus turns South Korea’s Olympic plans chaotic

SEOUL  (AFP) - Travel restrictions around the world on arrivals from virus-hit South Korea are plunging its Olympic preparations into turmoil, with some athletes considering self-imposed exile and some at risk of missing the Games altogether.

South Korea is a country that takes the Olympics seriously, coming eighth in the medal table at Rio 2016 with nine golds, and fifth at London 2012 with 13.

But it also has the largest number of reported novel coronavirus cases in the world outside China, with the national total passing 6,000 on Thursday, less than five months before the Tokyo Olympics.

Scores of countries and regions have imposed travel restrictions and more than 20 — including Olympic host Japan — have ordered two weeks’ quarantine on arrivals from South Korea. Around 40 others have barred foreigners who have recently been in the country.

Unless exemptions are granted, the measures make it impossible for South Koreans to take part in international competitions in those countries — costing them ranking points and sometimes putting Olympic qualification in doubt.

The national judo team were planning to arrive in Russia next week for the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam from March 13 to 15. But on Wednesday, Moscow announced its two-week quarantine.