The Team GB delegation at the Opening Ceremony will only number around 30 – with concerned athletes choosing not to attend the showpiece event amid concerns over Covid-19.
The development comes as Chilean taekwondo player Fernanda Aguirre and Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs were ruled out of the Games after testing positive for Covid-19.
A record low turnout will walk behind the union flag on Friday night, at a show which will be broadcast to millions around the world. Officials had hoped around 50 athletes would take part, which would still represent a fraction of the usual 200 in non-pandemic times.
But Sportsmail understands that fear of being contact traced and of catching the virus – which could be competition ending – has led to a mass pull out.
Earlier this week, 10 Team GB members were forced to self-isolate after a passenger on their flight tested positive for the virus. The athletes within that group have been permitted to train individually and are set to compete.
Only around 30 Team GB athletes will attend the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony
So far, none of the 376 Team GB athletes have tested positive – and it would appear the group wants to keep it that way. Traditionally, the prestige and experience of the Opening Ceremony has been a strong pull. But this year that is simply not the case, as the pull-outs have shown.
Meanwhile, Chef de Mission Mark England, called on the British public to embrace the Games. ‘My message is Team GB has almost 800 athletes and support staff in country, athletes are fit, well and healthy, they’re transitioning from a fantastic preparation camp into the Olympic environment,’ he said.
‘We’re a couple of days away from the opening ceremony and not one of those athletes, not one of the support staff, not one of the personnel engaging with Team GB have tested positive.
The Games have already been hit by coronavirus, with two athletes now confirmed to miss out
‘So there should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigation measures, the testing regime that we adhere to not only to support our Team GB but also the Japanese people and volunteers.
‘We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won’t be an easy ride but it will be exciting and there will be some memories that I’m sure will live long.’
England added that no medal target had been set, but added that he was confident of a successful fortnight and a lift during a time of pandemic.
‘Many people back home have lost their lives, many people have had their livelihoods changed,’ he said.
‘We are maturely representing the hopes and the aspirations of millions and millions of people back home. I don’t know what the medal outcome is going to be…. but what I would say is that this is a top, top team that we’re looking at.
So far, none of the 376 Team GB athletes have tested positive since arriving in Japan
This is a top team that’s going to hit the field of play. You go across every single athlete, every single team, every single sport, every single discipline, and you know, we can medal in all of those. It’s very, very competitive.’
Meanwhile, a homecoming event for Team GB’s athletes will be held on August 15 at Wembley Arena.
A ballot of lottery players will attend, with acts including Rag’n Bone Man, Bastille, Griff and Laura Mvula providing entertainment.
Olympic rules set up to protect against Covid mean athletes have to leave Japan within 48 hours of their event – and so many would miss out on the closing ceremony.