Tokyo Olympics: 10,000 Volunteers Quit Citing Fear of Coronavirus

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Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics revealed on Wednesday that roughly 10,000 volunteers have withdrawn from the Summer Games, which are slated to begin on July 23.

Tokyo Olympics organizers said they “need 80,000” volunteers to properly run the games, but are “now short 10,000,” Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, reported on June 2.

“The withdrawal of volunteers began in February after then organizing committee chairman Mori Yoshiro came under criticism for his remarks taken as derogatory to women,” NHK noted on Wednesday. “Even after Mori resigned from the post to take responsibility for his remarks, more volunteers continued to withdraw, citing other factors such as fears of infection [from the Chinese coronavirus] or changes in their own working environment.”

Tokyo Olympics Committee Director-General Muto Toshiro told Japanese media this week he “believes there were some people who found it hard to serve as volunteers in view of their schedules.”

Muto implied that organizers of the Summer Games may force some of the remaining volunteers to provide free labor for both the regular Olympics and the Paralympics, which are slated to begin about one month after the Olympics. He insisted the lack of sufficient volunteers would “not pose a problem.”

“Organizers say the issue will not affect regular operations” at the Tokyo Olympics, according to NHK.

The Japanese public broadcaster said it learned on June 2 that “doctors in charge of medical service at competition venues in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are withdrawing.”

While NHK did not reveal how many physicians had pulled out of the Summer Games as of Wednesday, it noted that “some of them have cited their busy work schedule.”

“The [Tokyo Olympics] organizing committee is working to secure doctors who will cover those who have pulled out,” the broadcaster added.

The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee has assigned medical doctors and staff to each Olympic venue in the country. The medical teams are meant to provide emergency care to athletes and spectators who suffer from symptoms of heatstroke or injury. The “Venue Medical Officers” are also meant to treat people who suspect they may be infected with the Chinese coronavirus, which has recently made a resurgence across Japan and especially in Tokyo, forcing the national capital into an ongoing “state of emergency.” Japan’s federal government announced on Tuesday an extension of the coronavirus lockdown “state of emergency” order in Tokyo and seven other prefectures until June 20, just one month before the Summer Games begin.

The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said it was “seeking about 200 certified sports doctors to work as volunteer medical staff for the events” in early May, according to the Japan Times.

“Last month, the organizing committee asked the Japan Nursing Association to secure 500 nurses for the games,” the newspaper recalled on May 3.

“Concerns are mounting over whether it will be possible to secure enough medical staff for the events, as the medical system is under severe strain in many parts of the nation due to the resurgence of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” the publication noted.

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