By Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) -With just nine weeks until the start of the Olympics in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday sought to calm fears in Japan that the Games would present an additional burden to a medical system already strained by the pandemic.
Rounding off a three-day meeting to discuss Olympic preparations and coronavirus countermeasures, officials said more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village would be vaccinated ahead of July 23, when the Olympics start.
The global sporting event, which was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faces mounting opposition from the public, and in a Reuters company survey released on Friday nearly 70% of respondents said they wanted a cancellation or further postponement.
“I can say it’s now clearer than ever that these Games would be safe for everyone participating and, importantly, safe for the people of Japan,” International Olympic committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates, who is in charge of preparations, said at the end of the meeting.
He added that additional medical personnel would be part of the foreign Olympic delegations to support the medical operations and the implementation of the COVID-19 countermeasures at the Games.
Japan has vaccinated just 4.1% of its population, according to Reuters’ global tracker, the lowest rate among the world’s wealthy countries.
In contrast to some other Group of Seven (G7) nations that are beginning to end pandemic-busting lockdown measures, much of Japan remains under emergency curbs amid a fourth wave of infections.
Organisers have also cut the number of people coming to Japan as part of foreign Olympic delegations, to 78,000 from about 180,000, Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the organising committee, told a news conference after the meeting.
Underscoring organisational challenges, the Canadian swimming team have become the latest delegation to pull out of a pre-Olympic training camp in Japan ahead of the Games due to coronavirus fears.
Plans for some 50 training camps in Japan have been scrapped, the majority due to concerns over the pandemic.
The U.S. track and field team also cancelled its training camp in the eastern prefecture of Chiba last week, while dozens of Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host athletes.
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the 2024 Olympics, plans to attend the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremony, media reports said on Friday.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Kim Coghill/Peter Rutherford/Toby Davis)