TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Wednesday called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled with the games set to open in less than two months.
It is the first of Japan’s major newspapers to make the move and joins some regional newspapers which have recently added to the growing opposition to holding the Olympics.
Coming out against the Olympics could be significant since the newspaper, like many in Japan, is a sponsor of the postponed Olympics that are to open on July 23.
“We cannot think it’s rational to host the Olympics in the city this summer,” the newspaper said in its editorial under a headline that read: “We Demand PM Suga Decide Cancellation.”
“Distrust and backlash against the reckless national government, Tokyo government and stakeholders in the Olympics are nothing but escalating,” the editorial added. “We demand Prime Minister Suga to calmly evaluate the circumstances and decide the cancellation of the summer event.”
Despite the editorial, there is no indication the International Olympic Committee or local organizers have any plans to pull the plug on the games.
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On Tuesday, the Japanese government said a warning by the U.S. to avoid travel to Japan would have no impact on holding the Olympics.
Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics, and the IOC gets billions from selling broadcast rights, which amounts to about 75% of its income.
Public opinion polls in Japan show between 60-80% want the Olympics canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Tokyo, Osaka and other regions of the country are under a state of emergency that is likely to be extended past its May 31 expiration.
Organizers and the IOC say the games can be held safely with 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes entering Japan, joined by tens of thousands of additional judges, officials, sponsors, broadcasters and media.
Last week, IOC Vice President John Coates was asked if the Olympics would be held if a state of emergency were in force.
“Absolutely, yes,” he replied.