The organizers of the IOC and Tokyo Olympics begin three days of virtual meetings on Wednesday and will face some of the strongest opposition from the medical community to date, with the games set to open in just over nine weeks.
The meetings are chaired by IOC Vice President John Coates, who will once again try to assure the Japanese people that the games will be “safe and secure”.
Much of Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, is under a state of emergency, which has forced IOC President Thomas Bach to cancel a trip to Japan this month. Bach was to address the organizers at the virtual meetings.
Only about 1-2% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated, and opposition to the Olympics is 60-80% in many polls.
In one of the strongest statements to date, the 6,000-member Tokyo Physicians Association called for the Olympic Games to be canceled in a letter sent last week to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Governor from Tokyo Yuriko Koike and Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Organizing Committee.
The letter was made public this week on the group’s website.
“We believe the right choice is to cancel an event that has the potential to increase the number of people infected and deaths,” the letter said.
âViruses are spread by popular movements. Japan will bear a heavy responsibility if the Olympic and Paralympic Games act to worsen the pandemic, increasing the number of those who must suffer and die. “
The Olympic Games are due to open on July 23. The Paralympic Games will follow on August 24. They are a financial imperative for the International Olympic Committee, which derives about 75% of its income from the sale of television rights and 18% from sponsorship.
Japan has officially spent $ 15.4 billion or hosted the Olympics, although government audits suggest the figure is much higher.
There is no indication that the games will be canceled, although opposition continues with small street protests and online petition campaigns. Last month, British medical journal spoke out against holding the Olympic Games.
Japan has had more than 11,500 deaths from COVID-19.
The Tokyo Physicians Association has warned of a possible collapse of Japan’s medical system, which could come under increased pressure as Tokyo’s hot and humid summer months approach in the run-up to the Olympics.
âOur nation is now experiencing an increase in the number of coronavirus patients in a fourth wave, the worst yet,â the letter said. âMedical systems responding to COVID-19 are stretched, almost to their limits. The reality is that the entire medical system is facing an almost insurmountable ordeal as we do our best to respond with coronavirus measures.
Tokyo organizers said around 10,000 medical staff would be needed during the Olympics. They also requested 500 additional nurses and 200 sports medicine specialists.
Several prefectures near Tokyo have said they will not prioritize the treatment of Olympic athletes.
“The doctors and nurses in the medical system who are being asked to respond are already exhausted at this point, and there is absolutely no additional manpower or treatment facility,” the letter adds.
Foreign supporters have already been banned and Olympic organizers are expected to announce next month whether home supporters can attend in limited numbers.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will involve 15,000 athletes and tens of thousands more entering Japan, whose borders have been virtually sealed for over a year.