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Nearly 10K Volunteers Have Bailed On Olympic Games

Paul Steinbach

With 50 days remaining until the 2021 Olympic Games are set to open in Tokyo, a significant percentage of the Games' volunteer workforce has already bowed out.

As reported by the Associated Press, nearly 10,000 of the 80,000 unpaid volunteers lined up to work the Games have told organizers they will not report for the July 23 opening, presenting another hurdle to the staging of an event already delayed by the pandemic. Organizers insist the Games will go on regardless.

Related: Summer Olympics Postponed to 2021 Due to COVID-19

Organizers said some volunteers dropped out because of worries about COVID-19. Only about 2 to 3 percent of Japan's general population has been fully vaccinated. Japan has attributed slightly more than 13,000 deaths to COVID-19, far lower than most comparable countries, but higher than many Asian neighbors.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee expects at least 80 percent of athletes and residents of the Olympic Village to be fully vaccinated. Few volunteers are expected to be vaccinated, since most will have no contact with athletes or other key personnel, according to the AP.

Related: Tokyo Doctors Recommend Canceling 2021 Olympics

"We have not confirmed the individual reasons," organizers said in a statement. "In addition to concerns about the coronavirus infection, some dropped out because they found it would be difficult to actually work after checking their work shift, or due to changes in their own environment."

In lieu of pay, volunteers typically get a uniform, meals on the days they work and their daily commuting costs covered. They pay for their own lodging.

A study conducted for the IOC estimated the value of 40,000 volunteers working the 2000 Sydney Olympics at $60 million minimum.

Tokyo is officially spending $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics, and several government audits say it's much more. All but $6.7 billion is public money. The IOC's contribution is about $1.5 billion.

Support for the Olympics continues to lag in Japan, with 50 to 80 percent of those surveyed — depending on how the question is phrased — saying the Games should not open on July 23, according to the AP.

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