Organisers are battling persistent doubts over the Games with just 50 days to go until the opening ceremony.

An advertisement for Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is displayed at Narita international airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan June 1, 2021.
An advertisement for Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is displayed at Narita international airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan June 1, 2021. (Reuters)

Around 10,000 of 80,000 Tokyo Olympics volunteers have quit as Japan battles a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

Organisers are battling persistent doubts over the Games with just 50 days to go until the opening ceremony.

Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto ruled out a further postponement and said a cancellation will only happen if most foreign athletes do not attend.

Organisers will on Thursday mark 50 days to go before they unveil details about the medal ceremonies, in the latest attempt to build public enthusiasm despite polls showing most people in Japan want the Games delayed or cancelled.

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Fourth Covid-19 wave in Japan

Japan is battling the fourth wave of coronavirus infections, with Tokyo and several other parts of the country under a state of emergency due to last until a month before the Games.

On Wednesday night, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told local media that around 10,000 volunteers – who are vital to the smooth running of the massive event – have quit, largely over coronavirus concerns.

Others dropped out after the Games were postponed by a year, or in protest over sexist remarks made by Hashimoto's predecessor, who was forced to resign.

Some of the volunteers are likely also to be among the approximately 80 percent of people in Japan who oppose hosting the Games this year, according to opinion polls.

But surveys among the population of Tokyo have found a more even split between those in favour and opposed to holding the Games.

Muto said the reduction in volunteers would not affect the running of the Games because the event has been scaled back, so fewer people are needed.

Participants cut

Overseas fans have already been barred from attending, and a decision on whether to allow domestic spectators is expected later this month after the state of emergency in Tokyo ends on June 20.

The number of overseas officials and participants coming for the Games has been cut by about half, to around 78,000, with calls for further reductions.

Hashimoto reiterated that the Games are on and will be safe for participants and the Japanese public in an interview published Thursday, saying the cancellation was virtually inconceivable.

"If various countries around the world experience very serious situations, and delegations from most countries can't come, then we wouldn't be able to hold it," she told the Nikkan Sports daily.

"But conversely, unless such a situation emerges, the Games will not be cancelled."

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Athletes arrive in Japan

Australia's softball team earlier this week became the first Olympic athletes to arrive in Japan for the Games, a major step forward.

Hashimoto said she believed the tide of public opinion could be turning as Japan's initially slow vaccine campaign begins to speed up.

"We are hearing more and more voices from people saying 'if this is the case, the Olympics may be able to take place'," she said.

Japan has seen a smaller Covid-19 outbreak than many countries, with just over 13,000 deaths. Around 2.9 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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Source: AFP