Canadian Jordan Dallaire-Gagné just wanted to be part of the largest sporting event in the world. Working or volunteering at the Tokyo Olympics was top of mind when the Montrealer moved to Japan a little over a year ago.
But Dallaire-Gagné said the Games should be cancelled as parts of the world face surging waves of COVID-19.
Dallaire-Gagné and several other Canadians living in Japan said sports are about camaraderie, cheering fans, full stadiums and a festive atmosphere that spills into the streets. Canadians in Japan were looking forward to cheering Team Canada in Tokyo.
The idea of mostly empty stadiums, devoid of foreign spectators, feels wrong, the Canadians said, adding the focus of the governments, not just in Japan but from countries sending their athletes, should simply be to get through COVID-19.
"I mean, it's just the whole idea of participating," Dallaire-Gagné said in an interview from Tokyo. "This is almost a once-in-a-lifetime event. I would have kept my ticket. I would say I was there."
Calls to cancel the Olympics are growing. Anywhere from 60 to 80 per cent of Japanese residents in polls say it is their wish that the Games be cancelled.
The Olympics open on July 23 followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.
Dallaire-Gagné said it's hard to look at the part of the city that is supposed to house the athletes because it seems to lack a sense of light and life.
"It's just like basically a part of town that could be used as a zombie apocalypse movie set," he said. "They're just there. It's just so sad."
A 6,000-member Tokyo Medical Practitioners’ Association has also called for the Olympics to be cancelled in a letter sent last week to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa, and Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the organizing committee.
The Olympics and Paralympics will involve 15,000 athletes entering Japan, which has had its borders virtually sealed for more than a year.
Rebekkah Nyack, an undergraduate student at Temple University's Japan campus, said she is worried about the spread of infection if the games go-ahead.
"Tokyo is such a dense city with so many people," said the Canmore, Alta. resident, who is studying international affairs.
"If there's a large outbreak there's a higher chance of me getting (COVID-19) and people in my community getting it."
Between one and two per cent of Japanese residents are fully vaccinated, and it’s unlikely that even the elderly population will be fully vaccinated before the Olympics end on Aug. 8.
Fans from abroad have already been banned, and Olympic organizers are expected to announce next month if local fans can attend in limited numbers — or not at all.
Nyack said that even though the Games are a "fantastic" thing to happen every four years, it is far more important right now to keep people safe.
The idea of largely empty stadiums is disheartening, she said.
"The sense of community the sports bring — it's an important part right?" she asked.
"So, if you don't have that then what's the point?"
Jared Parales said if the Olympics are held, tickets are affordable, social distancing measures are comfortable and all precautions are taken, he may go and watch the Canadian volleyball team.
The Calgarian, who lives in Tokyo, said he's seen some sports events go ahead with cardboard figures filling seats, but added it's not the same as having screaming and cheering fans.
Ideally, he said he wants to see the Games cancelled.
"For Olympics, a lot of people love it," he said.
“And I love sports. I love the Olympics. I want to see it happen, but I want to see it happen right and not right now."
— With files from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2021.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press