About 10,000 Olympic volunteers from Tokyo quit after the Games

About 10,000 of the 80,000 registered volunteers supporting sporting events had resigned Wednesday, according to officials of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the organizing committee, told Japanese media he did not believe the volunteer withdrawals will have an impact on the functioning of the Games, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic. The rescheduled event is scheduled to begin on July 23.

Volunteers play a key role in the Summer Olympics. They help staff operate Olympic venues and facilities, and assist spectators and athletes. So if others continue to drop out, that could pose additional difficulties for the organizers.

However, no foreign spectators are allowed into Japan for the Games, so organizers may not need as many volunteers as other host cities have in recent years.

A first cohort of volunteers dropped out in February – the same month the chair of the Games organizing committee resigned. The official, Yoshiro Mori, resigned after sexist remarks he made at a meeting were leaked.
While officials have not said why most of the 10,000 volunteers quit, it is likely linked to the pandemic. Opinion polls show that most of the Japanese public oppose holding the Olympics, with hospitals overwhelmed by a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases and the vast majority of people still unvaccinated.

The country has reported more than 752,000 cases of the coronavirus in total and more than 13,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Daily new cases have been a few thousand in recent days, down from a fourth wave peak of nearly 8,000 on April 29.

The vaccine rollout in Japan has also been much slower than expected. While there is enough supply to immunize much of the country’s 126 million people, there is a bottleneck of healthcare professionals available to administer them. Only nurses, doctors and dentists can legally administer vaccines.

Staff are preparing Moderna coronavirus vaccines for use at a newly opened mass vaccination center in Tokyo on May 24.

Currently, only the elderly and healthcare professionals are eligible to receive a vaccine. Muto, the CEO of the Olympic Organizing Committee, said doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be provided to Olympic athletes, but not to volunteers, who are advised to use public transportation to get to the Games. Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa has said the IOC will give Japan 20,000 vaccines, but negotiations over who will receive these doses are ongoing.

Last week, the editorial board of one of the country’s leading newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, accused Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of staging the Olympics “against the will of the public” and called for the cancellation of the Olympics. ‘event.
Meanwhile, a group of US public health experts have warned that continuing the Olympics as planned could put athletes and the public at risk. They said Japanese authorities and Tokyo 2020 organizers need to reconsider their approach to risk management and recognize the limitations of measures such as temperature control.

“We believe that the IOC’s determination to host the Olympic Games is not based on the best scientific evidence,” the authors wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “For us to be able to connect safely, we believe urgent action is needed to make these Olympics happen.”

A handful of prominent business leaders also raised concerns about the event. Last month, CEO of e-commerce giant Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, told CNN that it would be a “suicide mission” for Japan to host the games.

Also in May, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, an organization of about 6,000 physicians in the capital, wrote a letter calling for the end of the Games.

Japanese authorities recently extended a state of emergency for much of the country, including Tokyo, until June 20 – about a month before the start of the Olympics.

U.S. citizens were warned against travel to Japan last month due to the surge in Covid-19 infections.
Staff are preparing Moderna coronavirus vaccines for use at a newly opened mass vaccination center in Tokyo on May 24.
Olympic organizers have maintained their belief that the Olympics can be held safely. Canceling the Olympics would also be costly for Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), especially due to the loss of broadcast revenue.

Several officials said it would be impossible to postpone the Games for a second time.

“All the stadiums are already reserved for other events. It has been such hard work to postpone for a year… it is impossible to postpone it again,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told Nikkan Sports, a Japanese newspaper, in an interview. released Thursday.

Dick Pound, the longest-serving IOC member, told CNN this week that “none of the people involved in the planning and execution of the Games are considering a cancellation.”

“It’s basically irrelevant,” he said.

CNN’s Emiko Jozuka, Junko Ogura and Blake Essig contributed to this report.

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