Japanese Petition to Cancel Olympics Gains 50K Signatures in First Day

An online petition to cancel the Tokyo Olympics gained 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours after it was launched.

The petition, organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer who has run several times for Tokyo governor, says that the Olympics cannot be held safely and that the games have drained financial resources away from other needs, such as COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.

The headline in English over the petition reads: "Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives."

"Government policies are being set with the Olympics in mind, and measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic are being neglected," Utsunomiya told the Associated Press. "Hospitals are stretched thin, and some people are dying at home."

Olympic organizers and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said the events will be "safe and secure." They recently unveiled the latest version of the Playbook, which explains health and safety rules for athletes and others to follow during the pandemic.

The postponed Olympics are set for July. Meanwhile, Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas are under a state of emergency because of rising virus cases. The state of emergency is to expire on May 11, but some reports in Japan say it is likely to be extended.

Tokyo Olympics
A huge semi-sphere displaying the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics logos is displayed from the side of a driving school building on May 6 in Tokyo. With just under three months remaining until the city's Olympic Games, concern continues to mount about hosting the event amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Carl Court/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The petition is addressed to IOC President Thomas Bach, who has tentative plans to visit Japan later this month. He is expected to meet the Olympic torch relay on May 17 in Hiroshima, and perhaps also travel to Tokyo where small anti-Olympic protests being planned.

Although 70 to 80 percent of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics canceled or postponed, there is no indication this will happen. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto and Bach have repeatedly said the games will go on as scheduled.

The Olympic torch relay has been crisscrossing Japan for a month. Organizers say that eight people working on the relay have tested positive for the virus.

The Tokyo Olympics have become a face-saving exercise for Japan, which has officially spent $15.4 billion to prepare them. For the IOC, the Tokyo Olympics are critical since 73 percent of its income comes from selling television rights.

Organizers say the Olympics will be "safe and secure," though this has been challenged by local medical specialists, and in an editorial last month in The BMJ. It said mass events like the Olympics are "neither safe nor secure."

Organizers say they will need 10,000 health workers to support the Olympics. They have also requested 500 additional nurses—a nurses' federation balked at the request—and 200 sports medicine specialists.

Only 2 percent of the Japanese public have been vaccinated. Japan has attributed 10,500 deaths to the virus, good by global standards but not as good as many Asian neighbors.

"In order to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in July, we must devote a large number of medical professionals, valuable resources such as medical facilities and medical equipment, and various other resources," the petition says.

In a survey conducted by the nationally circulated Mainichi newspaper, nine prefectural governors said they wanted the games canceled or postponed again. Most of the 47 governors declined to answer, saying they had no decision-making power.

Protest Tokyo Olympics
A "No Olympics" banner is placed by protesters in Tokyo during a March 25 demonstration against the go-ahead for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has gained ten of thousands of signatures since its launch in Japan just a few days ago. Hiro Komae/AP Photo