An online petition with more than 350,000 signatures calling for the Tokyo Games to be cancelled was submitted today to local organisers, the International Olympic Committee, and others.
The Olympics are scheduled to open in just 10 weeks on July 23 in the midst of a pandemic with Tokyo and other areas under a state of emergency.
Cases continue to rise in Japan, where less than 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
The petition campaign — called “Stop Tokyo Olympics” — was drafted by well-known lawyer Kenji Utsu-nomiya, who has also run for governor of Tokyo.
He said the response was surprising but acknowledged that this was too little, and probably too late.
He says the media coverage has already put a lot of pressure on the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the organising committee.
Utsu-nomiya said the Olympics would divert medical services from the general public, which has been a rising concern as hospitals come under strains that could get worse as the games approach.
Organisers and the IOC say they will hold the games safely, isolating 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes in a “bubble” and repeatedly testing them and the tens of thousands of others — judges, staff, sponsors, media, and broadcasters — who will enter a country that has had its borders sealed for a year.
Japan has attributed about 11,000 deaths to COVID-19, good by world standards but poor in Asia where places like Taiwan and South Korea have been more successful.
The IOC relies on selling broadcast rights for almost 75% of its income — 18% more is from sponsors — and Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion to organise the Olympics.