Olympics At Risk Of Being Cancelled After 10,000 Volunteers Quit
Event in the balance
Tokyo's postponed Olympic games remains in the balance after close to 10,000 volunteers tell organisers that they will not participate when the event begins on July 23.
With less than 50 days until the opening ceremony, the volunteer drop-off poses a difficult problem for event officials, citing growing COVID numbers as a reason for concern.
A select few are expected to be fully vaccinated for the Olympics, given most unpaid staffers will not be in close contact with athletes. However, event organisers aim to vaccinate as many volunteers as possible in the build up to the games.
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organising committee, said volunteers close and in direct contact with the Village will receive doses.
"If we're going to give shots, we need to identify whether we can add those shots, or whether we have the system to back it up," Muto said.
Only three per cent of Japan's population are vaccinated, Olympic organisers maintain the expectation that 80% of athletes and Olympic village residents will be fully vaccinated.
Muto said the volunteer withdrawals will not impact the overall operation of the games - denying rumours of the cancellation.
"There has been some feedback pertaining to potential cancellation or postponement, but nobody has explicitly mentioned that we should cancel or postpone the Games," he said.
"Rather, the board members mentioned that Tokyo 2020 has come this far and things are being properly managed. We need to communicate to the the Japanese people."
If the Olympics are again postponed or simply cancelled, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stands to lose between $3 billion and $4 billion.
Japanese government medical adviser Dr. Shigeru Omi raised concerns over the validity of staging the games amid a global pandemic, given the upsurge in case numbers.
"Holding the games in the middle of the pandemic is abnormal." Omi said.
A spokesperson for the IOC stated that reasons for the volunteer dropout were not yet confirmed.
"In addition to concerns about the coronavirus infection, some dropped out because the found it would be difficult to actually work after checking their shift, or due to changes in their own environment," an IOC statement read.
The nation's government previously extended the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and seven nearby districts - with plans to lift the protocols next month.
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