TOKYO – Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on Wednesday called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled with the Games opening in less than two months.
It is the first of Japan’s major newspapers to make the move, and it joins some regional newspapers that have recently contributed to the growing opposition to holding the Olympics.
Opposing the Olympics could be significant as the newspaper, like many in Japan, is sponsoring the postponed Tokyo Games, due to open on July 23, Yoshihide Suga.
“We cannot consider it sensible to host the Olympic Games in the city this summer,” the newspaper said in its editorial under the headline: “We demand that Prime Minister Suga decide to cancel.”
“Mistrust and backlash against the ruthless national government, the Tokyo government and the Olympic Games actors are escalating,” the editorial added. “We call on Prime Minister Suga to calmly assess the circumstances and to decide whether to cancel the summer event.”
Asahi has a morning circulation of 5.16 million and 1.55 million for the evening edition. It is the second largest newspaper in the world after the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun.
Despite the editorial, there is no indication that the International Olympic Committee or local organizers have any plans to pull the plug on the Games. But resistance is growing as only a tiny percentage of Japanese are now vaccinated.
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, said Wednesday he was familiar with the editorial but barely replied.
Asahi is one of about 70 local Olympic sponsors who have raised nearly $ 3.5 billion to the organizing committee’s budget. It’s also one of half a dozen newspapers that are sponsored.
“Of course, different press organizations have different views. And that’s natural,” said Muto, adding that local partners or sponsors continue to offer “support”.
Senior IOC member Richard Pound said in an interview with Japan’s Jiji Press last week that the final deadline for canceling the Olympics is still a month away.
“You really have to know before the end of June, yes or no,” Jiji Pound quoted as saying.
The British Medical Journal last month called for a close look at the future of the Olympics. Local medical officials were also skeptical, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son suggested over the weekend that the IOC force the Olympics on Japan.
“Right now, more than 80% of the population wants the Olympics to be postponed or canceled,” said Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., which also owns the SoftBank Hawks baseball team.
“Who is forcing this, and under what rights?” Son added.
Asahi also criticized the IOC, calling it “self-righteous” and also criticized IOC Vice President John Coates. Last week, Coates was asked if the Olympic Games would take place in the event of a state of emergency.
“Absolutely, yes,” he replied.
The newspaper said there was a “huge gap” between Coates’ words and the feelings of “the people”.
“Despite its overgrown size and excessive commercialization and many other problems, the Olympic Games were supported out of empathy for their ideals. … But what is the reality now?” Asahi asked.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government said a United States warning to avoid traveling to Japan would have no impact on the Olympic Games.
Japan has officially spent $ 15.4 billion organizing the Olympics, and government reviews suggest it could be much bigger. The IOC receives billions from the sale of broadcasting rights, which is about 75% of its revenue.
Opinion polls in Japan show that between 60-80% are calling for the Olympic Games to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an online petition calling for the Games to be canceled received 400,000 signatures in just a few weeks.
Tokyo, Osaka and other regions of the country are in a state of emergency that is likely to extend beyond May 31.
Organizers and the IOC, often citing the authority of the World Health Organization, say the Games can be held safely with 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes entering Japan, along with tens of thousands of judges, officials, sponsors, broadcasters and the media .
Foreign fans have already been banned, and organizers will announce next month whether fans will be allowed into Olympic venues at all.