Japanese Olympics sponsor demands Tokyo Games are cancelled

Newspaper joins business leaders in mounting opposition to staging summer event

The logo of the  2020 Olympic Games pictured through a traffic sign in Tokyo. Reuters
The logo of the  2020 Olympic Games pictured through a traffic sign in Tokyo. Reuters

Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, a sponsor for Tokyo Olympics, called for the Games to be cancelled on Wednesday, in the latest sign of opposition less than two months before the opening ceremony.

The call comes with public opinion in Japan firmly against holding the Games this summer, and after prominent business leaders voiced their concern in recent weeks.

Organisers insist, however, that the Games are on, saying an extensive rulebook will keep athletes and the Japanese public safe.

An editorial in the newspaper urged Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to "make a calm, objective assessment of the situation and make the decision to cancel this summer's Olympics".

The paper said it "cannot accept the gamble" of holding the event, despite organisers' assurances it will be safe.

It also accused International Olympic Committee leaders, including vice president John Coates, of being "self-righteous" and "clearly out of step" with the Japanese public.

When asked last week if the Games could be held even in an emergency situation like the pandemic, Coates said "the answer is absolutely yes".

Tokyo and other parts of Japan are under a state of emergency, which is expected to be extended this week until June 20.

"Saying 'yes' without demonstrating any clear grounds for it once again drove home the self-righteous image of the IOC," the Asahi editorial said.

Two prominent figures in Japanese business have also voiced opposition to the Games in recent weeks.

Masayoshi Son, head of tech investment behemoth SoftBank Group, tweeted on Sunday: "Do the IOC have the right to decide if it's held or not?"

"If you think about what people have to put up with, we might have a lot more to lose" if the Games go ahead, he added.

And Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of e-commerce giant Rakuten, called the Games "a suicide mission" earlier this month. "The risk is too big and ... I'm against having the Tokyo Olympics this year," he told CNN.

Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto acknowledged organisers face "considerable" opposition.

"There are a considerable number of Japanese people who are concerned," she told an executive board meeting.

Updated: May 26, 2021 08:51 PM

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