Six weeks before the Opening Ceremony, organizers of the Tokyo Olympic Games are under fire for forging ahead amid a COVID surge.
Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder and CEO of Rakuten and a prominent Japanese business leader, denounced the event as “a suicide mission” in May. The chairman of Japan Doctors Union labeled the Games as the most “dangerous gathering of people” since the COVID pandemic emerged. More than 400,000 people have signed a petition calling on Japan’s Prime Minister to cancel the games.
And about 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers for the Olympic games have quit, according to Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee officials.
Japan has spent billions preparing for the games, while cities across Japan are in a state of emergency and spiking COVID cases overwhelming the medical system. Health experts worry that an influx of global travelers could have dire consequences for Japan and for the spread of COVID variants around the world.
The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association called on the International Olympic Committee to cancel the Games, but the IOC doubled down on its plans to proceed. They’ve unveiled protocols which they say will keep the country and the visitors safe.
But a group of public health experts published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine critiquing the IOC’s safety measures writing, in part, “We believe the IOC’s determination to proceed with the Olympic Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence.” And they say the proposed measures are out of line with “lessons from other large sporting events.”
The Games were already postponed in 2020 and it’s clear the sports world has no no appetite for another delay or cancellation.
In a statement, a spokesman for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said: “We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the U.S.O.P.C. and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer.”