• Jiji


Volunteers have been withdrawing their participation in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has been saying that its top priority is securing a "safe and secure" environment for the games, concern over the spread of the virus — which currently has Tokyo and eight prefectures under a state of emergency — has not been erased.

With Japan's medical capacity stretched thin, it is not clear whether a sufficient number of volunteer nurses can be secured to provide first aid to Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

A 25-year-old woman who was supposed to work as a "Field Cast" volunteer, a role that helps operate competition venues or the athletes' village, quit because she will not be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine in time.

"I worried about participating without getting vaccinated," said the resident of Sendai.

She also cited her distrust of the government and the organizing committee as a reason for her resignation. "The number of coronavirus cases hasn't decreased, but they are going ahead with holding the games anyway," she said.

The organizing committee initially recruited some 80,000 Field Cast volunteers. It said in February that some 1,000 volunteers had quit after then committee president Yoshiro Mori made a remark that was criticized as sexist and that led to his resignation.

More recently the committee has not said how many volunteers have quit.

Recruiting volunteer nurses has emerged as a big challenge.

Tachikawa Sogo Hospital in western Tokyo, which has admitted COVID-19 patients, has put signs on windows that read "Medical Resources Exhausted" and "Olympics Impossible."

"Our situation has been worsening. It's hard to meet a request for cooperation in the games," an official at the hospital said.

The Ibaraki Nursing Association had secured 41 nurses to volunteer at the Olympic soccer venue in Ibaraki Prefecture. When the association checked with them in April, however, only 13 nurses said they would take part.

Sanno University Professor Naoki Nakagawa, who specializes in sports management, said shortages of volunteers could make it hard to operate the event as planned.

"It's important for the organizers to take care of volunteers by listening to questions about things they feel unconvinced about," Nakagawa said.

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