Are the Tokyo Olympics Safe? Health Experts Urge a Rethinking

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“For the playbooks, because the situation of Covid is very fluid, we are accessing different knowledge and we will update the playbooks based on science,” Muto said, adding that test events were building out the information available to Olympic organizers. “There are many different sporting events happening, and we are learning from that and assessing our second version based on our inputs from those.”

The I.O.C., which will publish the third and final iteration of its playbook next month, has trumpeted the partnership it established last year with the W.H.O. in an attempt to build confidence in the viability of its health protocols.

But Sparrow, a former adviser to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the W.H.O., and her three co-authors urged the health organization’s membership to convene emergency committee meetings before the Tokyo Games, just as it did before the 2016 Rio Olympics amid widespread outbreaks of the Zika virus.

“There are issues around participant safety that haven’t been fully addressed,” said Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and another author of the journal article. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

In Japan, where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated, protesters have carried their anger to the streets, including at a large demonstration this month outside the national stadium in Tokyo. Prominent, outspoken critics in the country have included Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of the online retail giant Rakuten, who called the Olympics a “suicide mission,” and the technology billionaire Masayoshi Son, who warned on Twitter that Japan’s economy had far more to lose than Olympic officials.

An online petition to cancel this year’s Games collected around 400,000 digital signatures in relatively short order, and on Wednesday the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, an official partner of the Olympics, took that position in an editorial, calling on Japan’s prime minister to “objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer.”

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