Anti-Olympics petition in Japan gains tens of thousands of signatures

A banner opposing the Olympics
A banner opposing the Olympics (AP)
12:55pm, Thu 06 May 2021
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An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled has gained tens of thousands of signatures since being launched in Japan only days ago.

The rollout of the petition comes with Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas under a state of emergency with coronavirus infections rising – particularly new variants.

The state of emergency is due to expire on May 11, but some reports in Japan say 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 International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, who has tentative plans to visit Japan later this month.

The Olympic rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant (AP)

He is expected to meet the Olympic torch relay on May 17 in Hiroshima, and perhaps also travel to Tokyo where small anti-Olympics protests being planned.

Although 70-80% of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, there is no indication this will happen. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto, and Mr Bach have repeatedly said the games will go on as scheduled.

Organisers and the IOC unveiled so-called playbooks last week, explaining rules for athletes and others to show how the Olympics can be held in the middle of a pandemic. Several test events have been conducted in the last few days, and organisers have reported few problems.

The Olympic torch relay has been crisscrossing Japan for a month. Organisers say that eight people working on the relay have tested positive for the virus.

The petition has been organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer who has run several times for Tokyo governor. It registered about 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours after being launched.

“Government policies are being set with the Olympics in mind, and measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic are being neglected,” Mr Utsunomiya said. “Hospitals are stretched thin, and some people are dying at home.”

The headline in English over the petition reads: Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives.

The petition suggests the Olympics cannot be held safely and says the games have drained finances away for other needs such as the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Only 2% of the Japanese public have been vaccinated. Japan has attributed 10,500 deaths to the virus, good by global standards but not as good as many Asian neighbours.

Meanwhile, the IOC said vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech will donate doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo for the games.

It is the second major vaccination deal for the IOC. An agreement was announced in March between the IOC and Olympic officials in China to buy and distribute Chinese vaccines ahead of the Tokyo Games and next year’s Beijing Winter Games.

The new Pfizer offer gives the IOC greater coverage worldwide ahead of Tokyo with most countries yet to authorise emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

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