An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has garnered tens of thousands of signatures since it launched in Japan just days ago.
The petition rollout comes with Tokyo, Osaka and several other regions under states of emergency with an increase in coronavirus infections – especially new variants. The state of emergency is due to expire on May 11, but some reports in Japan indicate that it is likely to be extended.
The postponed Olympics are due to open in just under three months on July 23.
The petition is addressed to President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, who intends to visit Japan later this month. He is expected to meet the Olympic Torch Relay on May 17 in Hiroshima, and possibly also travel to Tokyo where small anti-Olympic protests are planned.
Although 70 to 80 percent of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics canceled or postponed, there is no indication that will happen. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo Organizing Committee Chairman Seiko Hashimoto, and Bach have repeatedly stated that the games will go as planned.
Organizers and the IOC unveiled so-called Playbooks last week, explaining the rules to athletes and others to show how the Olympics can be staged in the midst of a pandemic. Several test events have been conducted in recent days and organizers have reported some issues.
The Olympic torch relay has been crisscrossing Japan for a month. Organizers say eight people working on the relay have tested positive for the virus.
The Tokyo Olympics have become a face-saving exercise for Japan, which has officially spent $ 15.4 billion to prepare for it. For the IOC, the Tokyo Olympic Games are crucial since 73% of its income comes from the sale of television rights.
Organizers say the Olympics will be “safe and secure”, although hers has been challenged by local medical specialists, and in an op-ed last month in the British Medical Journal. He said mass events like the Olympics are “neither safe nor secure”.
Organizers say they will need 10,000 health workers to support the Olympics. They also asked for 500 additional nurses – a nursing federation refused the request – and 200 sports medicine specialists.
The petition was organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer who has stood for Governor of Tokyo on several occasions. It recorded around 50,000 signatures within 24 hours of launch.
“Government policies are set with the Olympics in mind and measures to stem the coronavirus pandemic are neglected,” Utsunomiya told The Associated Press. “The hospital is oversized and some people are dying at home.”
The English title of the petition reads: “Cancel Tokyo Olympics to Protect Our Lives”.
The petition suggests the Olympics cannot be held safely and claims the games have depleted finances for other needs such as the deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine. Only 2% of the Japanese public have been vaccinated. Japan has attributed 10,500 deaths to the virus, which is good by global standards but not as good as many Asian neighbors.
“In order to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in July, we need to devote a large number of medical professionals, valuable resources such as medical facilities and medical equipment, and various other resources,” the petition states.
In an investigation by the national newspaper Mainichi, nine prefectural governors said they wanted the games canceled or postponed again. Most of the 47 governors refused to answer, saying they had no decision-making power.