Major Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun published an editorial Wednesday calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, adding another voice to the push for further postponement or altogether cancellation less than two months before the Games are scheduled to begin.
Several regional newspapers have published a similar stance, but Asahi Shimbun is the first national newspaper to join the call. Asahi Shimbun is also a sponsor of the already postponed Olympics, which are set to open July 23.
“We ask Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer,” the left-leaning daily newspaper wrote, according to Reuters.
“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.”
Olympic organizers have acknowledged the editorial. But Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto brushed off the opinion Wednesday, saying “it is only natural for all sorts of media organizations to have all sorts of opinions.”
The push isn’t isolated to Asahi Shimbun. As Tokyo, Osaka and other parts of the country remain under a COVID-19 state of emergency that could be extended past May 31, public opinion polls in Japan show 60-80% of respondents are in favor of canceling the Games, per The Associated Press.
The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, an organization representing about 6,000 primary care doctors, released an open letter to Suga last week saying hospitals “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity.” The medical organization called on Suga to cancel the Games.
The U.S. State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Japan as cases rise in the country, and just 2.32% of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
However, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said canceling the Tokyo Olympics at this point is “essentially off the table.”
“None of the folks involved in the planning and the execution of the Games is considering cancellation,” Pound told CNN. “That’s essentially off the table. Whether there’s some huge event of some sort that we can’t anticipate that might intervene in the next 60 days, who knows.”
But Pound told Japan’s JiJi Press last week that the final deadline to cancel the Games was still ahead, saying: “Before the end of June, you really need to know, yes or no.”