Will the Tokyo Olympics Be Canceled? Latest Updates

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With the Tokyo Olympic Games set to open in almost two months, opposition against the games continues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

About 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help with the Olympic and Paralympic have quit.

"There's no doubt that one of the reasons is concern over coronavirus infections," Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, told reporters. Muto said this will not affect operations due to the lack of spectators and scaled-back events.

Public opinion remains against the games, as an opinion poll in May showed that over 80 percent of those surveyed wanted the Games to be canceled. As of Wednesday, a Change.org petition asking the Japanese government to cancel the Games has about 415,000 signatures.

Japan's most senior medical adviser has joined in these concerns.

"It's not normal to hold the Olympic Games in a situation like this," Shigeru Omi said Wednesday.

"It's only when there is a clear reason to host the games that the public will get on board," he added. "It's very important for those involved in the Olympics to clarify their vision and the reason for hosting the games."

However, Olympic organizers show every intention to continue with the games as planned, ensuring the events will be "safe and secure."

Olympic athletes are required to sign a health waiver that says they will "participate in the Games at [their] own risk and responsibility" amid the "potential exposure to health hazards such as the transmission of COVID-19 and other infections diseases."

While the International Olympic Committee says more than 80 percent of residents in the Olympic Village will be fully vaccinated, less than three percent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated.

The COVID-19 state of emergency in several prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, has been expended until June 20.

Tokyo COVID-19 State of Emergency
A red traffic light lights up on a street near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building displaying a banners of Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo on May 31, after the announcement that the government extended a coronavirus emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country until just a month before the Olympics. Kazuhiro NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) sent a letter Tuesday to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking them to "actively mediate" a territorial dispute with Japan ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

South Korea wants the IOC to pressure Japan to remove a reference to a small island as a Japanese territory from the Tokyo Games Website.

The island, called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, has been part of a decades-long dispute between the two countries.

"Dokdo is South Korean territory and political neutrality must be guaranteed at the Games," Kim Bo-young, KSOC public relations director, told Reuters. "Japan's behavior can be seen as a political action, so we have sent the letter as we believe such action runs counter to the Olympic spirit."

South Korea said on Tuesday it had summoned Japan's deputy ambassador to "strongly protest" the map. This led to calls from South Korean officials to boycott the Games in two months.

Some South Korean officials have pointed out that Seoul removed the disputed islands from a flag featured at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea after Japan complained.

Japan said it "cannot accept" South Korea's protest.

"Takeshima is a territory inherent to Japan in view of historical facts and international laws. We cannot accept South Korea's protest at all," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters Wednesday.

Medical experts say Japan's current inoculation pace is not fast enough to vaccinate most citizens by the start of the Tokyo Games in two months.

"Vaccinations under the current pace are not going to help prevent infections during the Olympics," Tokyo Medical Association Chairman Haruo Ozaki said. "The Olympics can trigger a global spread of different variants of the virus."

According to the Associated Press, even if Japan succeeds in fully vaccinating all 36 million elderly by the end of July, a week into the Games, about 70 percent of the total population will not be vaccinated.

To meet their goal, Japan aims to administer one million vaccine doses a day. It currently is giving 500,000 a day. Only about 2.7 percent of the population has been vaccinated since the country started its rollout with health care workers in February.

Dr. Noato Ueyama, a physician and head of the Japan Doctors Union, said the Olympics pose a risk of becoming an incubator for a "Tokyo variant" as thousands of international Olympic guests enter the largely unvaccinated country.

"The Olympics, billed as a recovery Games, can trigger a new disaster," Ueyama told the Associated Press.

Japan's most senior medical adviser told a parliamentary committee Wednesday that hosting the Olympics amid a pandemic is "not normal."

"It's not normal to hold the Olympic Games in a situation like this," Shigeru Omi said.

"It's only when there is a clear reason to host the games that the public will get on board," he added. "It's very important for those involved in the Olympics to clarify their vision and the reason for hosting the games."

This comes after about 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics quit.

Japanese organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters that was "no doubt" this was due to concern over COVID-19 infections.

Public opinion continues to be against holding the Games in July. As of Wednesday, a Change.org petition asking the Japanese government to cancel the Games has about 415,000 signatures.

While COVID-19 cases have fallen in Tokyo in recent days, officials are worried that the influx of people from around the world could cause a new surge in infections.

"Case numbers could rebound quickly," Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko told Japan's public broadcaster NHK. "I'm very concerned that the movement of people could return to normal levels."

In addition to the Playbooks that outline COVID-19 health and safety protocols for Olympic athletes, Tokyo organizers also require participants to sign a health waiver.

Olympic athletes have signed similar waivers in previous games, but this one has been updated so that athletes will assume risks specific to COVID-19.

"I agree that I participate in the Games at my own risk and own responsibility, including any impact on my participation to and/or performance in the games, serious bodily injury or even death raised by the potential exposure to health hazards such the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious disease or extreme heat conditions while attending the Games," the waiver, which was obtained by the Associated Press, reads.

Despite Tokyo's continued COVID-19 state of emergency and low inoculation rate, the Japanese government and Olympic organizers still promise a "safe and secure" games.

The International Olympic Committee has said more than 80 percent of residents in the Olympic Village will be fully vaccinated by the time the games open July 23. Only around 3 percent of the Japanese population is currently fully vaccinated.

The fate of the Tokyo Olympics has been dealt a fresh blow after thousands of volunteers who had signed up for the Games have quit.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Wednesday that approximately 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who will help throughout the Olympics and Paralympics Games have had a change of heart. NHK cited the Games' organizing committee as the source for the figure.

Speaking to Japanese daily Nikkei, Tokyo 2020 organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto admitted concerns over coronavirus could have played a part in the withdrawals.

"There's no mistake that concerns over the coronavirus could have factored in," he was quoted as saying about the volunteers.

You can read the full story here.

Many of Canada's top basketball players are set to attend training camp ahead of an Olympic qualifying match the country will host in Victoria, British Columbia on June 29.

The 21-man team includes 14 of 16 leading Canadian-born scorers in the NBA. Such players include Golden State's Andrew Wiggins, New York's RJ Barrett, Memphis' Dillon Brooks, Oklahoma City's Luguentz Dort, Houston's Kelly Olynyk, New Orleans' Nickeil Walker-Alexander, and Indiana's Oshae Brissett.

"There is no greater feeling in sports than the chance to represent your country on the highest international stage at the Olympic Games," Canada senior men's program general manager Rowan Barrett told the Associated Press. "Our players and staff fully recognize the unique opportunity that lies ahead of us and I would like to commend them for their dedication to playing for Canada this summer."

Canada's training camp starts June 16 in Tampa, Florida, at the Toronto Raptor's temporary facility. The Canadain team is coached by the Raptors' Nick Nurse.

Three other qualifying matches will take place in Serbia, Croatia and Lithuania. All of the tournaments are winner-take-all for the last four spots in Tokyo in July.

Japan's government will decide Friday whether to extend the state of emergency across much of the county ahead of the Olympic Games.

The current emergency measures were enacted in April and are set to end on May 31. The governors of Tokyo and Osaka have already asked the central government to extend the current state of emergency as the pandemic continues to crush their health care systems.

"If we have another expansion of infection, we cannot deal with it anymore," Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Tuesday. "Before it becomes too late, I have decided to [request to] extend the state of emergency."

With the Games set to open in two months, Japan's seven-day average for new cases is around 4,500, according to Johns Hopkins University. Only about two percent of the country's 126 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to CNN.

Dr. Naoto Ueyama, the chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, said Olympic organizers have underestimated the risk of holding the Games amid the coronavirus pandemic and fears the spread of variant strains from Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa.

While speaking in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Ueyama said it is "dangerous" to hold the Games in Tokyo in two months.

"Such a decision [to hold the Olympics] is not something to be made only by the IOC or only by the one host country," he said. "I am an Olympic fan. However, I don't think they should go ahead while pushing many people into danger or calling on many people to make sacrifices in regard to their lives in order for them to take place.

Read the full story here.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) said Wednesday that it will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to about 600 Olympic athletes and about 1,00 coaches and support staff starting June 1.

The two doses will not be administered by public health care workers, but by doctors working for national governing sports bodies as well as those with the Japan Institute of Sports Science. Vaccinations will also occur at Tokyo's National Training Center to avoid any burden on local governments and medical systems.

"We understand that as many members of each country's delegation as possible should be vaccinated before they arrive so they can avoid spreading coronavirus infections inside Japan," JOC executive board member Keiko Momii said during a media briefing.

Japan's Minister for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games said Pfizer and BioNTechwill donate coronavirus vaccine doses for about 20,000 Japanese athletes and staff ahead of the Games.

Marukawa Tamayo told reporters Tuesday that she will work with the organizing committee to ensure referees, interpreters and other staff members who will be in close contact with athletes can be vaccinated.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto has responded to calls from one of Japan's biggest newspapers to cancel the Olympics.

In an editorial on Wednesday, The Asahi Shimbuna liberal newspaper and an official Olympic partner—called for prime minister Yoshihide Suga to listen to the widespread public opposition and "to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancelation of the event this summer."

Speaking at news briefing held following a meeting of the organizing board on Wednesday, however, Muto dismissed the editorial saying that "it is only natural for all sorts of media organisations to have all sorts of opinions" about the issue.

Before the meeting, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told Reuters that only one coach had tested positive over four test events held in Japan.

The events, which were held with almost 7,000 visitors from 50 countries, were "evidence that our current coronavirus precautions are effective", she added.

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun is the country's first major paper to join the calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympic Games with a new editorial Wednesday.

The liberal-leaning paper and Olympic sponsor wrote they "cannot think it's rational to host the Olympics in the city this summer."

"Distrust and backlash against the reckless national government, Tokyo government and stakeholders in the Olympics are nothing but escalating," the editorial said. "We demand Prime Minister Suga to calmly evaluate the circumstances and decide the cancellation of the summer event."

Read the full story here.

Despite the CDC advising against traveling to Japan, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) remains adamant that it will be safe for athletes to compete in the Olympics despite the country's growing coronavirus crisis.

"We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organising Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer," the USOPC said in a statement earlier this week.

If USOPC were to pull the plug, Olympic organizers would almost certainly come under enormous pressure to cancel the Games.

With the exception of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, the USOPC has never chosen not to send its athletes to the Games.

Team USA at Rio 2016 opening ceremony
Flag bearer Michael Phelps of the United States leads the U.S. Olympic Team during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

At a daily press conference on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said official government advice was for citizens to avoid all unnecessary travel abroad for health reasons.

However, he stopped short of confirming whether they planned to issue a travel warning to Japan.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping had already informed IOC chief Thomas Bach in early May that the country will support the holding of this summer's Olympics in Tokyo, despite the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Chinese athletes are already confirmed to attend the event amid some concern among the Chinese public.

While the IOC and organizers are forging ahead with plans to hold the Olympics this summer, it is worth remembering their stance was drastically different a little over 12 months ago.

Speaking on April 28 last year, Yoshiro Mori, the then-president of the organizing committee, said the Games would be canceled should coronavirus still be a threat in 2021.

"In that case, it's canceled," Mori told Japan's Nikkan Sports daily when asked whether the Games could be delayed by a further 12 months.

"We'll hold the Olympics in peace next summer", he explained. "Mankind is betting on it."

Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President Yoshiro Mori
Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President Yoshiro Mori speaks during the Tokyo 2020 Council and Executive Board meeting on February 12 in Tokyo, Japan. Mori resigned his post after being condemned for making sexist remarks. Yoshikazu Tsuno - Pool/Getty Images

Mori's comments came on the same day the head of Japan Medical Association admitted holding the Games in 2021 could be incredibly difficult, unless a vaccine was found.

Several vaccines have been found since but, as mentioned below in the blog, the rollout has been painfully slow in Japan.

Mori stepped down from his role in February this year after being condemned for making sexist remarks.

Here's more on the article published by the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday, in which several health specialists warn the IOC's Playbooks are not fit for purpose.

In the piece, the authors note that Japan's coronavirus crisis has dramatically worsened over the last 14 months. Significantly, the assumption the pandemic would be under control by now, has not turned to be the reality.

"When the IOC postponed the Tokyo Olympics in March 2020, Japan had 865 active cases of Covid-19 against a global backdrop of 385,000 active cases," the article says.

"Fourteen months later, Japan is in a state of emergency, with 70,000 active cases. Globally, there are 19 million active cases."

After earning praise for its initial response to the pandemic, Japan has been criticized for a painfully slow vaccine rollout—just over 1.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated—and large parts of the country remain in a state of emergency.

As this graphic provided by Statista shows, Japan lags well behind other countries in the race to vaccinate its entire population.

Statista vaccine
A graphic showing the progress different countries have made in the race to fully vaccinate their entire population as of May 23. Statista

While the CDC has warned against traveling to Japan, a group of U.S. health specialists have gone a step further and slammed the IOC's Playbooks.

Developed by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee, the colourfully illustrated pamphlets detail the measures athletes, officials, press and broadcasters and other visitors should follow to keep themselves safe from the virus.

The Playbooks were developed in consultation with the World Health Organization, but an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday criticized them for lacking transparency and details.

Dr. Annie Sparrow, a global health specialist and the lead author of the piece, tweeted that while there was still time to make the Olympics safe, the Playbooks "settle for cheap measures that don't work rather than scientifically proven ways that do."

We don’t have to cancel the Olympics — we stil have time to make them safe, but the @olympics IOC "Playbooks" settle for cheap measures that don’t work rather than scientifically proven ways that do. @brosseau_lisa @mtosterholm & I explain what to do:https://t.co/E6xuJSoPL7pic.twitter.com/j3JfPRPapI

— Annie Sparrow (@annie_sparrow) May 25, 2021

In an interview with The New York Times, Sparrow added: "All along the way there's been an ignorance of science. [...] It's not rocket science to hold a safe Olympics. It's basic medical science. But that's what the I.O.C. has ignored, and I don't know if they're going to start paying attention now."

A prominent Japanese economist has warned the cost from emergency measures that may have to put in place should the Games turn out to be a "super-spreader" event would dwarf the financial hit of canceling the Olympics.

According to official figures, Japan faces a 1.8 trillion yen ($16 billion) loss should the Games be canceled. The budget initially stood at $13.4 billion, but the figure has ballooned by almost another $3 billion.

Takahide Kiuchi, a former Bank of Japan board member and currently the executive economist at the Nomura Research Institute, however, warned the financial impact should the Games go ahead could be far more significant.

"If the [Olympics] trigger the spread of infections and necessitate another emergency declaration, then the economic loss would be much greater than cancellation," he said in a report, according to Reuters.

The report estimates Japan's first nationwide state of emergency last year cost the country's economy in the region of 6.4 trillion yen, with subsequent states of emergency worsening the impact.

"These calculations suggest that the decision of whether to hold or cancel the Games should be made from the perspective of infection risk rather than economic loss," Kiuchi added.

Asahi Shimbum, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled. The newspaper is an official partner of the Games.

In an editorial published Wednesday, the newspaper cited the COVID-19 pandemic as cause to cancel the 2020 Olympics.

"We ask Prime Minister (Yoshihide) Suga to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer," the newspaper said, as translated by Reuters.

The new Tokyo Olympics dates overlap with the planned dates for the World Games 2021.

Due to COVID-19, the International Olympic Committee rescheduled the Olympic Games 2020 for July 23 through August 8. However, the World Games 2021 had previously been scheduled for July 15-25, the International World Games Association said.

"With the announcement of the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, there has been considerable speculation regarding its impact on The World Games 2021 Birmingham. We have been keeping a close eye on the situation and have remained in constant contact with the International World Games Association (IWGA)," Nick Sellers, CEO of the World Games told WIAT-TV.

"At this time, it would be premature to speculate about potential changes to our event until we receive more information from the IOC on its specific plans. However, we remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering a world-class experience in Birmingham and are confident in a positive outcome for our athletes, fans and community. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available," Sellers continued.

The White House Tuesday reiterated that it supports the Tokyo Games to be held this summer as previously planned.

"Our position has not changed on the Olympics," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "The government has stressed that public health remains a central priority as they plan to host the Games."

A U.S. State Department spokesperson also said President Joe Biden supports "the U.S. athletes who have trained for these Games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit," according to Reuters.

Japan's ban on foreign spectators during the Tokyo Olympics has put many athletes with small children in a tough spot; forcing nursing mothers to choose between the Games and their babies.

Aliphine Tuliamuck, the winner of the 2020 U.S. Olympic marathon trials, submitted a petition to allow her fiancé and infant daughter Zoe to accompany her to Tokyo but does not know if or when it will be approved.

"I am still nursing Zoe and cannot imagine her not being with me," Tuliamuck said in a recent interview. "If I'm going to perform my best, she's going to have to be there with me."

Soccer star Alex Morgan told reporters during a conference call that she hopes her one-year-old daughter can join her in Tokyo.

"It's important to allow mothers the option to have their kids with them when they compete," she said. "If a child is under 1 or 2, they might still be breastfeeding, so that's a huge piece of it."

In a statement, the International Olympic Committee said requests to bring children to Tokyo will be left up to National Olympic Committees who are "responsible for the composition of their delegations at Games time."

Jason Mason, senior director of communications for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, told the Washington Post that requests to bring children would be handled on a case-by-case basis in coordination with national governing bodies and the Olympic organizing committee.

The Dew Tour in De Moines, Iowa is one of the last major qualifying events for skateboarding for the Tokyo Olympics.

These Games will mark the first time skateboarding, surfing and rock climbing will be present.

"That's the beautiful thing about skateboarding," Mariah Duran, a 24-year-old Olympic hopeful, told the Associated Press. "It takes you places you've never been."

American Nyjah Houston, a 12-time X Games and five-time world champion, was in Iowa competing for a spot in Japan.

"I never put much thought into it being in the Olympics," Huston told the AP. "I was always confused about why it wasn't in there, but at least it's in there now, and I'm hyped for it."

The introduction of snowboarding to the Olympics in 1998 opened the door for skateboarding to roll onto the international competition stage.

"We're like surfing or snowboarding, in that the competitors were pretty reluctant to join into something like that," Mike Vallely, a 50-year-old skateboarding pioneer calling the action in Iowa told the AP. "But once Shaun White started having this great success, the kids coming up started seeing that as what is possible."

Skateboarders are now hoping the acceptance into the mainstream sports world will further normalize the sport.

The public perception of skateboarding has come a long way from being deemed a "craze" and a "menace" on a 1965 cover of Life Magazine. However, in Japan and in many parts of America, skateboarding in broad daylight on a busy street is still frowned upon.

"It was immediately cast as something that's not good, and that carried on in different iterations through every decade," Josh Friedberg, the CEO of USA Skateboarding, told the AP.

Japan's struggle to get its people vaccinated has put one of its Olympic athletes at risk.

Kimie Bessho, a 73-year-old table tennis Paralympian known as "The Butterfly Lady," told CNN she has been unable to get a vaccine.

Bessho said she called health centers and the Health Ministry several times to inquire about getting vaccinated. Only about 2 percent of Japanese citizens are vaccinated.

"I'm prepared to die under these circumstances, but I don't want to die of COVID," she said. "If I die, I want to die in a competition after a winning smash."

Bessho started playing table tennis at age 45 and played in her first Paralympic Games at age 56. Her nickname comes from her signature butterfly clips she wears in her hair for every competition.

"I became disabled, but I was also given a great gift," she said, "to play wheelchair table tennis."

She said she won't be able to get the vaccine before the table tennis Paralympic qualifiers in Slovenia and she is scared to travel internationally.

For Bessho, the coronavirus pandemic is just another challenge she will fight to overcome.

"I've been through so many hard times, but I am mentally strong and I have a fighting spirit in me," she said. "No matter how old I am I'll still beat the younger players."

Japanese stock investors believe canceling the Tokyo Games is better for the market.

The risk of another COVID-19 outbreak and the potential political damage for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is making investors nervous, fund managers and traders told Reuters.

"An increasing number of people think not holding it is better for Japanese stocks, than doing it and ending up with political instability," Arihiro Nagata, general manager of global investment at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, told Reuters.

"And because we won't have any inbound tourists, economic benefits will be limited."

The Tokyo stock market has underperformed in recent months. Vice-chairman and chief economist for Credit Suisse in Japan Hiromichi Shirakawa said foreign investors are already worried about Suga's fate.

"They are now at the stage of assessing political risks," he told Reuters. "They haven't reduced Japanese stocks that much yet but they think there is a high chance of Suga quitting."

While the Games can bring in a large amount of revenue for the host city, another surge in COVID-19 cases with new variants could put the Japanese market at further risk.

"Whether we hold the Olympics or not does not have a vital impact on the economy. But a prolonged period of infections is clearly negative for the economy," Makayuki Miyajima, senior economist at Sony Financial Holdings, told Reuters.

Chellsie Memmel, a 32-year-old mother of two, has come out of a nine-year retirement to compete in a gymnastics tournament Saturday.

Memmel won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics and won the all-around gold medal at the 2005 World Championship.

She told the TODAY Show that she decided to start training again last year during the pandemic to stay in shape. Then she started pushing herself to hone in on old skills and learn new ones.

"It just kind of kept happening, and I was continuing to just have so much fun that I kept going," Memmel said.

2008 Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel came out of retirement today to compete at her first gymnastics meet in 9 years.

At age 32 and a mom of two, @CMemmel is proof that if you truly have love and passion for something, you can achieve anything. @OnHerTurf #USClassic pic.twitter.com/8zLfkJaeRB

— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) May 22, 2021

In the U.S. Classic in Indianapolis, Memmel scored 13.750 on the vault and finished with an 11.800 score on the beam.

"I just want to put that message out to anybody who thought they missed their chance at something or didn't get a chance to try it or wanted to go back to their sport even just for fun, no one should be stopping you," she told NBC Sports after the meet. "Just don't hold yourself back."

While she is a long shot to make the U.S. Team for Tokyo, Memmel is determined to give it her best effort.

"I know how hard it is to make that team, I know the talent that we have in this country," she said told NBC. "I have just this great appreciation for everybody who is training, so I know that it will be a battle."

2008 Olympic silver medalist and 32-year-old mother of two Chellsie Memmel is coming out of retirement to compete in her first meet in 9 years at this Saturday's #USClassic.

(📸 IG/@CMemmel) @OnHerTurf pic.twitter.com/UJwJAe0Wbv

— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) May 21, 2021

Doctors in Osaka warn that the medical system is on the verge of collapse as a surge in coronavirus infections leaves hospitals without bed space or ventilators.

"Simply put, this is a collapse of the medical system," Yuji Tohda, the director of Kindai University Hospital in Osaka, told Reuters. "The highly infectious British variant and slipping alertness have led to this explosive growth in the number of patients."

In addition to the lack of space and treatment for sick patients, Toshiaki Minami, the director of the Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital (OMPUH), said hospital staff is overwhelmed and exhausted.

"I've got some intensive care unit staff saying they have reached a breaking point," she told Reuters. "I need to think of personnel changes to bring in people from other hospital wings."

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens in Osaka, Japan's second-largest city ahead of the Olympics, medical experts believe the Games should be canceled.

"The Olympics should be stopped, because we already have failed to stop the flow of new variants from England, and next might be an inflow of Indian variants," Akira Takasu, the head of emergency medicine at OMPUH, told Reuters.

"In the Olympics, 70,000 or 80,000 athletes and the people will come to this country from around the world," Takasu added. "This may be a trigger for another disaster in the summer."

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said canceling the Tokyo Games is "essentially off the table."

"None of the folks involved in the planning and the execution of the Games is considering cancellation," he told CNN's Selina Wang. "That's essentially off the table. Whether there's some huge event of some sort that we can't anticipate that might intervene in the next 60 days, who knows."

Pound said that there will be a "bubble" around participants in Tokyo that will be maintained with frequent COVID-19 testing that will identify and contain the virus, but could not guarantee complete safety amid the pandemic.

"The hope is that despite all these difficulties -- and that they are numerous and huge to be sure -- if we can pull off an event of this nature, without any significant risk, and bring everybody in the world together in something that has always been a beacon of hope and achievement in a difficult world, it will have been worth it," he said.

Simone Biles became the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike vault move in competition at the GK U.S. Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday.

"I was just thinking, Do it like training. Don't try to overdo anything," she told CNN afterward, "because I have a tendency as soon as I raise my hand to kind of overpower things, and I did a little bit, but at least I was on my feet. It's a new vault and I'm proud of how today went."

The first woman in history to land a Yurchenko double pike in competition.

Our jaws are on the floor. @Simone_Biles is still in the air. #USClassic pic.twitter.com/CmJYRidtfo

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) May 23, 2021

According to CNN, the Yurchenko double pike is a high-difficulty skill historically only done by men. It consists of a round-off onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vaulting table, and ending with a piked double backflip into the air to landing. Biles did the move but had a slightly imperfect landing.

The defending world champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist won the all-around title at the Classic and took top scores on both balance beam and floor exercises.

Good morning to everyone but especially to the rhinestone goat on @Simone_Biles' leo. 🐐 ✨ #USClassic pic.twitter.com/aBy0berRx5

— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) May 23, 2021

She wore a leotard embroidered with a rhinestone goat on the back, as a way of saying she is the greatest of all time.

Simone Biles US Classic
Simone Biles smiles after competing her floor routine during the 2021 GK U.S. Classic gymnastics competition at the Indiana Convention Center on May 22, in Indianapolis. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

On Monday the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 advisory, telling people "do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued a Level 4 warning against travel to Japan, saying "because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan."

While these advisories do not ban Americans from visiting Japan, they could affect insurance rates and dissuade athletes from participating in the games in July.

However, Japanese officials said that the warning from the U.S. does not ban essential travel to Japan and would not affect Olympic athletes.

"We believe there is no change to the U.S. position supporting the Japanese government's determination to achieve the games," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference Tuesday

He added that Washington told Tokyo the travel warning is not related to the participation of the U.S. Olympic team.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it still anticipates American athletes will be able to safely compete at the Tokyo Games.

A new petition is circulating online calling on the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo Organizing Committee and the Japanese government to save trees in Yoyogi Park from a now unnecessary Olympics structure.


Petition to stop construction of the no-longer-necessary Olympic viewing venue in Yoyogi Park, and thus avoid butchering of a bunch of the park's beautiful trees. 🌳🌲🌳

Please sign and spread the word! https://t.co/Pa8itWiDPn

— Rochelle Kopp / Japan Intercultural Consulting (@JapanIntercult) May 22, 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Live Site Project will build a series of public viewing venues at locations around Tokyo that includes a stage, jumbo screens and kiosks for sponsors. One of the spots is in the middle of Yoyogi Park.

Since there won't be any Japanese or international spectators, the petition organizers believe this project should be stopped in order to save the 35 trees that would need to have their limbs cut.

"One would think that, given we are in the midst of a pandemic, building a venue specifically designed to gather large numbers of people would be completely out of the question," the petition reads. "However, the decision has been made to push forward with the construction as originally planned, albeit with a veneer of anti-infection measures such as plenty of hand sanitizer."

The construction is slated to begin on June 1.

"The senselessness is sickening," the petition said. "Why is it necessary to permanently alter the silhouettes of numerous trees for the sake of a temporary event slated to last just a few weeks?"

Prominent business leaders and sponsors in Japan are joining the call to cancel the Tokyo Olympics.

In a series of tweets, SoftBank Group's founder and CEO Masayoshi Son expressed his concern over how the games will affect COVID-19 cases in Japan.

"Currently more than 80 percent of people want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Who and on what authority is it being forced through?" Son wrote.

"There's talk about a huge penalty [if the games are canceled] but if 100,000 people from 200 countries descend on vaccine-laggard Japan," he said in another tweet, "we could lose a lot more."

Son mentioned the spread of mutant variants, the loss of more lives and the public's patience, the burden of subsidies if a state of emergency is called and a drop in the gross domestic product.


— 孫正義 (@masason) May 23, 2021

Hiroshi Mikitani, the chief executive of e-commerce company Rakuten Group Inc., told CNN that the Olympics were a "suicide mission."

"It's dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world. So, the risk is too big," Mikitani told CNN Business. "The upside is not that great, and we see many countries are still struggling so much, including India and Brazil. And it's not time to celebrate yet."

The Hokkaido Shimbun newspapers, a sponsor of the games, accused Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of "forfeiting his responsibility for people's lives and health" and called for the Olympics to be canceled, according to the Guardian.

"We are in no mood to celebrate an event filled with fear and anxiety," the newspaper said. "The government must make the decision to protect the lives and livelihood of the people."

NBA star Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors is uncertain whether he will compete for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

After the Warriors' season-ending loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Friday, Curry told reporters that he was still considering all his options.

"Obviously everything was geared towards extending this season as far as possible," Curry said. "I know there's a lot of conversation and chatter about logistics and the setup and all that type of stuff, I don't know what that looks like from Team USA, so trying to gather as much information as possible and make the right decision for me at the end of the day."

The delayed start of the 2020–2021 NBA season would mean a quick turnaround for players who will go to Tokyo.

Team USA announced 57 finalists, including Curry, for the Olympic basketball team in March. Curry has never played in the Olympics before. He was not selected in 2012 and withdrew from consideration in 2016 after an extended playoff run.

Steph Curry Olympics
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors goes to the basket as Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends during the first half of an NBA Tournament Play-In game at Staples Center on May 19 in Los Angeles. Curry told reporters Friday that he is still considering whether to play for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics set to open in July. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Japan is accelerating vaccination efforts with the opening of state-run vaccine centers Monday in order to inoculate the country's 36 million elderly citizens by the end of July.

The centers are staffed by private nurses and medical staff from the Self-Defense Forces and will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for three months, including weekends and holidays.

The facilities aim to inoculate up to 10,000 people a day in Tokyo and 5,000 in Osaka with the two-dose Moderna vaccine that was recently approved in Japan.

While visiting the Tokyo center, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was "relieved" to see the operation running smoothly and said the vaccine rollout is an "unprecedented challenge."

"It is the government's responsibility to ensure every Japanese person is inoculated as soon as possible and to protect their lives and health," he told reporters. "We will do whatever it takes to accomplish the project so that the people can get vaccinated and return to their ordinary daily lives as soon as possible."

As reservation slots at the state-run facilities quickly fill up, local prefectures plan to open their own vaccination sites for the elderly.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) confirmed that all British athletes and support staff will be fully vaccinated prior to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The vaccines will be made available through a deal between the International Olympic Committee and Pfizer BioNtech.

"The UK Government has confirmed that, through an agreement between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Pfizer BioNtech, Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes and support staff will be fully vaccinated ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, based on the unique position of having to travel to Japan to go about their work," a BOA spokesperson said in a statement.

The agreement means the vaccines will be obtained directly from Pfizer, and will not impact current supplies for the British public, the spokesperson said.

Britain Olympics
Daryll Neita, Dina Asher-Smith, Desiree Henry and Asha Philip of Great Britain celebrate winning bronze in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The British Olympic Association confirmed Friday it will be fully vaccinated before the Tokyo Olympics in July. Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Public opinion polls show that a majority of people in Japan want the Tokyo Olympic Games to be canceled.

However, a Reuters series of interviews with people on the streets of Tokyo shows the complexity of the issue and the mixed opinions residents have.

Restaurant owner Akihiro Takahashi wants the Games to be postponed. He told Reuters he is worried about the health risks from foreign attendees entering Japan, but will miss the tourists who would have packed his restaurant during an Olympic year.

Businessman Ryutaro Tajima worries about the money wasted by building athletic and hospitality facilities without the flow of tourists.

"There might have been an impact by building new stadiums and things, but if they aren't used well going forward it'll be a big waste," he said.

Kimono-clad Keiko Yamamura, a yoga instructor, is also conflicted. She said the risk of variant strains entering the countries could create "a terrible situation," but "when I think of the athletes who have worked so hard, I'd like to let them do it."

Pensioner Mirei Sakai shares similar sentiments, but ultimately believes the health risk is enough to cancel the Games.

"The pandemic is a terrible situation all over the world right now. In the middle of this, you'd invite foreigners over here," she said. "I feel sorry for the athletes, but it's unavoidable."

Sushi chef Takashi Yonehana believes that if Japan calls off the games, "it will damage our image."

Older people in Japan are comparing the current Games to the last time Tokyo hosted in 1964.

"There's just no excitement. The mood now is almost like a wake," Isao Kawada, a 77-year-old retiree said. He still wants the Games to go ahead.

The head of the Tokyo Medical Association hopes the state of emergency in Japan will be extended beyond May 31.

"If the current situation continues, I hope the government will have the wisdom not to end the emergency at the end of May," Haruo Ozaki told the weekly magazine Aera.

The Tokyo Medical Association wrote a letter to the Japanese government and Olympic organizers calling for the cancellation of the Games.

Ozaki has been critical of Japan's efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. He warned that if emergency conditions are not extended, the virus and variants will spread quickly.

"If that happens, there will be a major outbreak, and it is possible that holding the Games will become hopeless," he said.

IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday that national Olympic committees could provide "additional medical personnel" to aid Japan.

Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo organizing committee, said 230 physicians and 310 nurses would be needed daily.

While the health care system in cities like Osaka is overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak, Hashimoto also said about 30 hospitals in Tokyo and around were contacted about caring for patients infected at the Olympics.

Organizers have said previously that 10,000 medical workers would be needed for the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said Friday that the Tokyo Games will open in July, despite low public support and an extended state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 cases.

"The advice we have from the WHO [World Health Organization] and all other scientific and medical advice that we have is that all the measures we have outlined, all of those measures that we are undertaking are satisfactory and will ensure a safe and secure games in terms of health," Coates said during a virtual news conference with Tokyo organizers. "And that's the case whether there is a state of emergency or not."

Coates hoped that public opinion about the Games will improve as more people in Japan get fully vaccinated.

"If it doesn't then our position is that we have to make sure that we get on with our job," Coates said. "And our job is to ensure these games are safe for all the participants and all the people of Japan."

IOC member Richard Pound said Thursday that the Tokyo Games are "a go" during online talks with organizers.

"Based on everything we know today it's a go," Pound said. "I have my ticket."

The Canadian swimming team canceled their pre-Olympic training plan in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Games over concerns about the coronavirus, Kyodo reported Friday.

The team joins 50 other delegations that have pulled out of pre-Olympic training camps due to COVID-19 concerns and state of emergency mandates in major cities.

Earlier in May, the U.S. Track & Field team canceled their pre-Games training camps that were set to take place in cities in the Chiba Prefecture.

Chiba Prefecture Governor Toshihito Kumagai called the cancellation "unfortunate," but that "given the current situation, I think USA Track decided this was the best course of action."

The British Paralympic wheelchair basketball team and the Russian fencing team also canceled plans to hold training camps in Chiba.

The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said the Tokyo Games will continue as scheduled in July.

However, the IOC's most senior member, Richard Pound, told Japan's JiJi Press that the final deadline to call off the Olympic Games was "before the end of June."

Pound reiterated that if the Games cannot happen this summer, they will be canceled, not postponed again.

Richard Pound IOC
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) founding President Richard W Pound attends a press conference on the report of the World Anti-Doping Agency concerning allegations of widespread doping in International Atheltics, in Unterschleissheim near Munich, southern Germany, January 14, 2016. Pound recently said the Tokyo Games are "a go," but said that if the Games are canceled over COVID-19 concerns, that call would come before the end of June. LUKAS BARTH/AFP via Getty Images

The host city contract signed between the IOC and Tokyo in 2013 gives the IOC the board power to cancel the Games. The IOC can cancel that game if the health or safety of the participants is in jeopardy.

If Japan was to unilaterally cancel the contract, the risks and losses would fall with the local organizing committee, Jack Anderson, a sports law expert and professor at the University of Melbourne, told the BBC.

A cancelation would also affect contracts with sponsors, broadcasters, hospitality and other support staff.

A Reuters report from January found that canceling the Games would cost insurers $2 to $3 billion.

Anderson told the BBC that canceling the Games would "probably be the biggest insurance pay-out event of its kind."

Japan expanded its COVID-19 state of emergency Friday after approving the use of two more vaccines nine weeks ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

There is no mandatory lockdown, but the declaration allows prefectural governors to demand shops and public establishments close or shorten their hours.

The expansion now covers 42 percent of Japan's population and includes Okinawa, the southern archipelago that hosts most of the U.S. military forces stationed in Japan.

Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the approval of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines will help speed up inoculation efforts. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be publicly distributed yet, as regulatory bodies will continue to examine the risks, including reports of rare blood clots.

Japan has secured around 364 million vaccine doses and has administered one or more vaccine doses to roughly 5 million people, or just 4 percent of the population.

Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, U.S. gymnast Simone Biles continues to push herself after earning four gold medals and one bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Her coach Laurent Landi told the Associated Press that he believes Biles is "very close to her full potential."

But in an interview with the AP, Biles admits she's tired.

Back in 2019, Biles told BBC that the Tokyo Games will be her last.

"I feel like my body's gone through a lot and it's kind of just falling apart, not that you can actually tell but I really feel it a lot of the time," she said.

Bile's other trainer and Laurent's wife Cecile Landi told the AP that Biles is "ready for the next phase."

The success, fame and involvement in multiple social movements in and out of gymnastics have taken a toll on the 24-year-old World Champion.

Biles came forward a few years ago as one of the hundreds of women abused by long-time USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and has been vocal on social media about social injustice and women's empowerment.

"It's kind of scary sometimes having that power placed into my hands because I didn't ask for it," Biles told the AP. "So I'm also getting used to that and I have to be careful about what I say because I know the impact that I can have."

Still, Biles is determined to make a huge impact on the Tokyo Games, cementing her place in Olympic history.

"I want to do this and nobody is forcing me," she said. "Now, it's just for myself."

Simone Biles
Gold medalist Simone Biles of the United States celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Women's Floor on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Biles said in 2019 that Tokyo would be her last Olympic Games. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Several Olympic officials around the world are voicing their support for the Olympic Games, despite calls for cancellation.

Jamaica Olympic Association President Christopher Samuda said Jamaica has "demonstrated as a country that we can put on an event that is in keeping with standards and in keeping with safety protocols brought on by the pandemic and that in the midst of the pandemic, sport can thrive."

"So should the Olympic movement give into viral invasion or should it pick up arms against the enemy in sport in fighting the battles on the way to winning the war?" he added.

Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra said he was "100 percent sure the Games should happen."

"I think it is the right event that is going to change the mindset of people," he told Sportsstar. "Covid has totally changed the lifestyles of people and I would say now the message has to go to everyone that we have now come out of it and people should say we have moved beyond Covid and life has to go on."

Batra also said that the Indian athletes and officials should be getting their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine sometime in June.

"We want to ensure that every athlete who goes to Tokyo has had their vaccination done," he said.

When asked about calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka said Sunday she was excited to compete, but understood the concern over hosting the Games in a pandemic.

"Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I'm an athlete and that's sort of what I've been waiting for my entire life," she said. "But I think a lot of unexpected things have happened and if it's putting people at risk, and if it's making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now."

The International Olympic Committee announced that Pfizer and BioNTech would donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate athletes and officials in Tokyo. While Osaka said she is vaccinated, she recognizes that others cannot be forced to get the vaccine.

"I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe. There's going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that," Osaka said.

"If you're going into the Olympics," she added, "make the host country happy."

After canceling his initial trip, IOC President Thomas Bach will visit Japan July 12, just 11 days before the start of the Olympic Games, according to a letter released Wednesday by IOC senior official John Coates.

Coates will be visiting Japan on June 15 to finalize Olympic preparations on site.

An estimated 79,000 officials, journalists and support staff are set to arrive in Tokyo for the Olympics, according to the Kyodo news agency and the Nikkei business newspaper.

This is about half of the number expected before the pandemic postponed the Games last year.

While the expected 11,500 athletes competing in the Games will not be required to quarantine on arrival, they will be tested daily for COVID-19 and will be confined to their living accommodations and sports venues.

"For obvious reasons, we cannot give them [athletes] every detail yet, but the most important principle is very clear: the Olympic village is a safe place and the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be organized in a safe way," Bach said during the online meeting with IOC and Tokyo organizers Wednesday.

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