• Kyodo

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Training began Thursday for leaders selected to manage volunteers who will assist at competition venues and the athletes village for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, even as public skepticism remains high over whether the games should be held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The training involves around 6,000 of the roughly 80,000 volunteers who have signed up for the games, with Thursday’s session the first of around 20 to be held through May.

Around 310 people participated online in either the morning or afternoon session and were briefed on their role as a volunteer team leader, which includes holding meetings prior to shifts, checking on volunteers and confirming the roster for the next day.

In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, organizers also requested that leaders enforce social distancing between volunteers, wear masks and sterilize shared-use items.

The Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed for one year due to the pandemic, are scheduled to start in less than 100 days, and the government is planning to put Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures under a third state of emergency from Sunday to May 11.

Amid a resurgence of infections driven by more contagious variants of the virus, the organizing committee has been studying several possibilities regarding spectators, including holding the games behind closed doors and limiting the crowd to 50% of the venues’ capacity, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Things are a mess right now due to the coronavirus pandemic and I’m sure things will also be difficult on the day. But I think that will also make it a more memorable experience,” said Masaya Ninomiya, an adviser at the Nippon Foundation Volunteer Support Center who was a speaker at the training session.

“I hope you will not try to solve problems by yourself, but value the power of teamwork,” he added.

Hiroko Satake, a 41-year-old stylist from Tokyo’s Taito Ward who was one of the volunteers at the training session, said that while she wanted to make the Tokyo Games a success by ensuring thorough infection prevention measures are taken, she “would feel safer if those who want to be vaccinated can be vaccinated.”

Venue-specific training for volunteers will take place in June ahead of the opening of the Olympics on July 23.

A Kyodo News poll earlier this month showed that 39.2% of respondents believe the games should be canceled, while 32.8% said they should be rescheduled.

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