About 10,000 volunteers for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have quit.
“There is no doubt that one of the reasons is the concern over coronavirus infections,” organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday after first reports on the issue by broadcasters NHK.
Olympic organisers and the International Olympic Committee have pledged to stage safe Games through a strict hygiene protocol.
But despite all the assurances, doubts and worries persist.
Volunteers, who make up the largest group of participants, don’t know whether they will be tested, let alone vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“There is zero information about that,” said Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo.
She has signed up as a volunteer for the Olympics.
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Another reason pointed by the organisers for the withdrawal of many volunteers is the Games postponement, now set to start on July 23.
About 1000 volunteers have also withdrawn in protest of sexist comments from former organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, who resigned following the scandal.
The 10,000 are from 80,000 volunteers for the competition sites but organisers don’t expect any problems because – due to the absence of foreign fans – fewer of them are needed.
A majority of Japanese want the Games to be postponed again or cancelled amid surging coronavirus cases and a slow start into vaccination. A state of emergency in Tokyo has been extended to late June.
The government top adviser on coronavirus matters, Shigeru Omi, says “it’s not normal to host the Games in the current situation”.
Should the Olympics be held during a pandemic, “it’s the responsibility of the organisers to reduce it as much as possible and strengthen the management system”, the medical expert told a parliamentary committee.