Mario and Sonic will no longer be appearing at the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, according to statements from Nintendo and Sega respectively.
The gaming icons have reportedly halted their plans to participate due to concerns over the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Only 4 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated, a far cry from achieving any sort of widespread immunity. Tokyo, the host city, still remains under an extended state of emergency with the pandemic showing little signs of easing less than two months before the start of the Summer Games.
Public support for holding the Games has dropped significantly, with nearly three quarters of citizens calling for the event to be either postponed or halted entirely. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association has also called for the Games to be canceled, citing already overwhelmed healthcare services.
Mario is no stranger to the devastation of the pandemic. The plumber’s home county of Italy was one of the hardest hit regions during initial outbreaks last year. Mario stated that he did not feel right participating while so many were still struggling and that he would be taking time away to focus on family instead.
“I hope to participate again in the future once we have all overcome this crisis,” he added
Sonic similarly withdrew, citing public safety concerns while also criticizing the government’s response to the pandemic as being “too slow”.
While Sonic’s withdrawal was met with disappointment from fans, competing athletes will likely see it as an opportunity. Sonic dominated track and field during the 2016 Olympic Games, winning the gold medal in nearly every event. The hedgehog’s performance led to accusations of Sonic using performance-enhancing drugs, which he has repeatedly denied.
Despite concerns and ever increasing challenges, the International Olympic Committee has not considered cancellation of the 2021 Games, most likely to protect the billions in coins and rings already invested into the event.