Japanese newspaper and official Olympic sponsor, the Asahi Shimbun, published a staff editorial yesterday urging Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to either cancel or delay the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin July 23rd. The newspaper is one of the oldest and largest newspapers in Japan, with a print circulation of over six million copies a day. The editorial led with the following blunt call:
The COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be brought under control, rendering it inevitable that the government will have to declare another extension of the state of emergency currently covering Tokyo and other prefectures.
It is simply beyond reason to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer.
More specifically, the editorial pointed to fears that holding the Games as scheduled would endanger the health and safety of Japanese citizens. Cases in Japan have spiked in recent weeks, leading to a state of emergency throughout much of the country, and only a few percent of the country’s citizens have been vaccinated.
The editorial continues to argue that, even if the Games are held in such a way to minimize contact between the athletes and the general public, there remains of risk of overwhelming Japan’s healthcare system.
According to a survey Asahi Shimbun conducted, only 14% of Japanese citizens favor the Olympics being held as currently scheduled, with the remainder split roughly evenly between canceling the Olympics totally, and delaying them once again, perhaps until 2022.
Despite the apparent feelings of much of the Japanese public and now of the prominent sponsors, both Japanese politicians and International Olympic Committee officials continue to reaffirm their belief that the Games will be held this summer with minimal risk. Leaders such as Japanese Olympic minister Seiko Hashimto and IOV Vice President John Coates have pointed to the five Olympic test events that Japan has hosted recently as evidence that things should be able to proceed this summer, despite much of Japan continuing to be under a state of emergency less than two months away from Opening Ceremonies.