Tokyo churches cancel Olympic engagement over Covid

(Photo: Unsplash/Alex Smith)

The Olympic Games get underway this week but this time round, they will be without spectators - and the usual spiritual support from churches. 

The Olympics are normally a time when local churches roll out events, evangelistic outreach and chaplaincy for competitors and spectators. 

But with a state of emergency declared in Tokyo and rising Covid cases, Catholic churches have been told to cancel all of their planned activities. 

The Catholic Archbishop of Tokyo, Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, confirmed the decision in a letter to churches in his archdiocese.

"For the past years, the Tokyo Archdiocese had originally been considering preparations so that each parish may be able to address the spiritual needs of the many people who would come to Japan for this international event," he wrote.

"However, we have decided to cancel all plans and thus, will not take any special involvement in the Olympics and Paralympics." 

The cancellation goes beyond planned events, as visitors to Tokyo during the Games are being "requested to refrain from visiting churches."

The measures are based on the commitment made by the Archdiocese of Tokyo at the start of the pandemic that "we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be infected."

"Thus, we have implemented various precautionary measures and have taken seriously our responsibility to protect the lives of one another as we prevent the spread of infection to protect not only our own lives but also the lives of others," the letter states.

The Olympic Games get underway on 23 July, followed by the Paralympics on 24 August.

After a dip in cases in June, daily infections have been steadily increasing in the run-up to the start of the Games. 

According to Sky News, as of Tuesday, 67 people involved in the games have tested positive for Covid.

They include US tennis player, Coco Gauff, who announced on Twitter that she was withdrawing from the games after a positive test.

And six Team GB athletes are isolating after a passenger on their flight to Tokyo tested positive.