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On March 25, a “No Olympics” banner is placed by protesters in Tokyo during a demonstration against the going ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has gained ten of thousands of signatures since being launched in Japan just a few days ago. Hiro Komae/Associated Press

TOKYO — An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has gained tens of thousands of signatures since being launched in Japan only days ago.

The rollout of the petition comes with Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas under a state of emergency with coronavirus infections rising – particularly new variants. The state of emergency is to expire on May 11, but some reports in Japan say it is likely to be extended.

The postponed Olympics are to open in just under three months on July 23. The petition is addressed to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who has tentative plans to visit Japan later this month. He is expected to meet the Olympic torch relay on May 17 in Hiroshima, and perhaps also travel to Tokyo where small anti-Olympic are protests being planned.

Although 70-80% of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics canceled or postponed, there is no indication this will happen. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, and Bach have repeatedly said the games will go on as scheduled.

Organizers and the IOC unveiled so-called Playbooks last week, explaining rules for athletes and others to show how the Olympics can be held in the middle of a pandemic. Several test events have been conducted in the last few days, and organizers have reported few problems. The Olympic torch relay has been crisscrossing Japan for a month. Organizers say that eight people working on the relay have tested positive for the virus.

The Tokyo Olympics have become a face-saving exercise for Japan, which has officially spent $15.4 billion to prepare them. For the IOC, the Tokyo Olympics are critical since 73% of its income comes from selling television rights. Organizers say the Olympics will be “safe and secure,” though his has been challenged by local medial specialists, and in an editorial last month in the British Medical Journal. It said mass events like the Olympics are “neither safe nor secure.”

Organizers say they will need 10,000 health workers to support the Olympics. They have also requested 500 additional nurses – a nurses’ federation balked at the request – and 200 sports medicine specialists.

The petition was organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer who has run several times for Tokyo governor. It registered about 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours after being launched.

VIRUS DOSES DONATED: Vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech will donate doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, the IOC said Thursday. Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo for the games, which open on July 23.

It’s the second major vaccination deal for the International Olympic Committee. An agreement was announced in March between the IOC and Olympic officials in China to buy and distribute Chinese vaccines ahead of the Tokyo Games and next year’s Beijing Winter Games. The new Pfizer offer gives the IOC greater coverage worldwide ahead of Tokyo with most countries yet to authorize emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.

TAMARA PRESS, a three-time Olympic champion from the Soviet Union who withdrew from international competition amid speculation and jibes about her gender, has died. She was 83. The Russian track federation said Press died in the hospital on April 26, without giving a cause of death.

TAMARA PRESS

In this Oct. 20, 1964 photo, Tamara Press, center, raises her hand on victory stand after winning the women’s shot put finals with a new Olympic record of 18.14 meters. A three-time Olympic champion, Press has died at the age of 83. Associated Press

Press won gold in the shot put and silver in the discus at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and gold in both events four years later at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Her sister, Irina Press, won Olympic gold in the 80-meter hurdles in 1960 and the pentathlon in 1964. Irina Press died in 2004.

Both sisters were subjected to comments and mockery in the United States and elsewhere about what some observers considered their masculine physiques.

“Certainly we are concerned with femininity. I’m a champion but you can see I’m a woman,” Tamara Press said in 1964. “The fact that a girl is a sportswoman has nothing to do with femininity.”

At the age of 29, Press did not compete at the 1966 European Championships, nor did her sister, and both retired shortly after. Gender verification was introduced for those championships. Many female athletes found it and other physical examinations intrusive and humiliating.

That was an early instance of the disputes around female athletes with differences of sex development. South African runner Caster Semenya won the 800-meter gold medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics but is barred from defending her title this year because of her naturally high testosterone levels. She has spent years in legal battles with World Athletics and has recently moved to compete in the 5,000-meter race after refusing to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels.

Born in what is now Ukraine, Press was evacuated to Central Asia following Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. She later moved to St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. Later in life, Press worked as a track and field coach and wrote books. She also chaired the board of trustees of a sports museum in Moscow.

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