Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Wednesday called for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled 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 that 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 Tokyo Games that are scheduled to open on July 23. Asahi is typically liberal-leaning and often opposes the ruling party led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.”

Asahi has a morning circulation reported at 5.16 million, and 1.55 million for its evening edition. It is second in circulation behind Yomiuri Shimbun, and subsequently is the second largest circulating newspaper in the world behind Yomiuri.

Despite the editorial, there is no indication the International Olympic Committee or local organizers have any plans to pull the plug on the games. But opposition is mounting with only a tiny percentage of Japanese people now vaccinated.

Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said Wednesday he was aware of the editorial, but offered little response.

Asahi is one of about 70 local Olympic sponsors that have chipped in almost $3.5-billion to the organizing committee budget. It is also one of a half dozen newspapers that are sponsors.

“Of course, different press organizations have different views. And that’s very natural,” Muto said, adding local partners, or sponsors, continued to offer “support.”

Story continues below advertisement

Senior IOC member Richard Pound said in an interview with Japan’s JiJi Press last week that the final deadline to call off the Olympics was still a month away.

“Before the end of June, you really need to know, yes or no,” JiJi quoted Pound as saying.

The British Medical Journal called last month for a hard look at going forward with the Olympics. Local medical officials have also been skeptical, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son suggested over the weekend that the IOC was forcing the Olympics on Japan.

“Right now, more than 80 per cent of the nation’s people want the Olympics postponed or cancelled,” said Son, the founder and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. who also owns the SoftBank Hawks baseball team.

“Who is forcing this to go ahead, and under what rights?” Son added.

Asahi also criticized the IOC, calling it “self-righteous” and also lambasted IOC vice president John Coates. Last week, Coates was asked if the Olympics would be held if a state of emergency were in force.

Story continues below advertisement

“Absolutely, yes,” he replied.

The newspaper said there was a “huge gap” between Coates’ words and the sentiments “of the people.”

“Despite its overgrown size and excessive commercialism and many other problems, the Olympics have been supported because of empathy for its ideals. … But what is the reality now?” Asahi asked.

On Tuesday, the Japanese government said a warning by the United States 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 government audits suggest it might be much larger. The IOC gets billions from selling broadcast rights, which amounts to about 75 per cent of its income.

Public opinion polls in Japan show between 60-80 per cent want the Olympics cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an online petition asking the games be cancelled has gained 400,000 signatures in a few weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

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, 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, joined by tens of thousands of judges, officials, sponsors, broadcasters and media.

Fans from abroad have already been banned, and organizers are to announce next month if any fans at all will be allowed into Olympic venues.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies