10,000 volunteers quit ahead of Olympics but Tokyo organisers insist Games will still go ahead

Only 50 days to go until opening ceremony

epa09242579 A giant Olympic rings monument is seen at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2021 (issued 02 June 2021). On 02 June 2021, the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games announced that some 10,000 volunteers out of the approximately 80,000 have refused to be part of the Games.  EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
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Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics say around 10,000 volunteers have quit due to coronavirus concerns in the latest setback to the Games with just 50 days until the opening ceremony.

Recent polls show most people in Japan want the Games delayed or cancelled, but Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto told a Japanese sports newspaper that would only happen in catastrophic circumstances such as most delegations not being able to come to Japan.

Japan is battling a 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.

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

In an effort to drum up enthusiasm amongst an ever-growing doubting public, organisers were on Thursday set to unveil details about medal ceremonies for the Games.

On Wednesday night, the Games chief executive Toshiro Muto told local media that around 10,000 volunteers out of field of 80,000 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 per cent 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.

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.

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

"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."