Anti-Olympics campaign gains traction online in Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa poses with a display of the Olympic symbol after an unveiling ceremony of the symbol on Mt Takao in Hachioji, west of Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool
An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled has garnered almost 200,000 signatures in the past few days, as public concerns mount over holding the Games in a pandemic.

With less than three months to go before the start of the summer Olympics, already postponed for a year due to the coronavirus, questions still remain over how Tokyo can hold the global event and keep volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public safe from COVID-19.

In two days since its launch, an online campaign  called "Stop Tokyo Olympics" has gathered more than 187,000 signatures, nearing its 200,000 goal and underscoring public concerns over holding the massive sporting event in Japan's capital.

Battling a fourth wave of the pandemic and struggling with a sluggish vaccination campaign, the Japanese government is seeking to extend states of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas until the end of May, the economy minister said on Friday.

Opinion polls in Japan have found a majority of the public is opposed to the Games, which are due to open on Jul 23.

"We strongly call for the prevention of spread of coronavirus and protection of lives and livelihood by using available resources to stop the Olympics," Kenji Utsunomiya, the online petition organiser, wrote on his website. Utsunomiya is a lawyer who has run several times for Tokyo governor.

But, organisers have repeatedly said the Games will go ahead, unveiling detailed Covid-19 protocols for athletes and officials.

Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Thursday they had agreed to donate their vaccine to help inoculate those participating in the Games.