Approximately one in eight volunteers for the Tokyo Olympics this summer has withdrawn from participating in the Summer Games, broadcaster NHK reports, the latest sign of growing opposition in Japan to the Olympics taking place as planned amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Citing organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, NHK reports approximately 10,000 volunteers have quit the Olympics as of Tuesday, out of 80,000 in total.
Volunteers have been continually resigning since February, when former prime minister and head of the Olympics organizing committee Yoshiro Mori came under fire for sexist comments and ultimately resigned.
Volunteers cited reasons like “fears of infection or changes in their own working environment” to justify them withdrawing from the games, NHK reports.
Olympics Committee Director General Muto Toshiro told NHK the loss of the volunteers “will not pose a problem” and organizers can impose measures like having some volunteers work for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
83%. That’s the percentage of Japanese respondents who said they want the Olympics to either be canceled or postponed, according to a survey conducted from May 15 to May 16.
What To Watch For
A decision on whether or not the Olympics will move forward should come by the end of June, IOC member Richard Pound told Japan’s JiJi Press. “Before the end of June, you really need to know—yes or no?” Pound said, according to the Associated Press. The games are scheduled to start July 23 if they take place as planned.
Local opposition to the Olympics has been mounting in Japan as the country faces a Covid-19 surge and slow vaccination rollout, with Tokyo and other areas of the country under a state of emergency due to the pandemic. Thousands of medical professionals have warned against holding the games—as well as newspaper Asahi Shimbun, a partner of the Olympic Games—and the head of a Japanese doctors’ union said last week he fears the games moving forward could result in a new “Olympic strain” of the coronavirus as attendees from around the world congregate. International Olympics Committee officials have been adamant that the games to move forward, even if the country remains under a state of emergency, and Japan’s Olympic athletes started getting vaccinated this week in anticipation of the games.
What We Don’t Know
Though the IOC has already announced a number of safety measures that will be in place for the games, including banning foreign spectators entirely, there are still additional restrictions that may go into place if Covid-19 continues to spread in Japan. Local spectators could potentially be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or vaccination to attend events, according to recent news reports that drew widespread criticism, and organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto suggested last week the Olympics could potentially take place without any spectators at all.