The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, one of Japan’s most influential media and a partner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has called for the cancellation of this summer’s rescheduled Games.
In a Japanese-language editorial, published Wednesday local time, the paper cited risks to public health and stress on Japan’s medical system as the reasons for its call.
“We ask prime minister Suga (Yoshihide) to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer,” it said. “We are far from a situation in which everybody can be confident they will be safe and secure. Sadly, that is not the reality.”
The Suga government and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said that the Games will take place, despite high levels of public concern within Japan.
Much of the country is currently under a state of emergency, vaccination rates are currently low, and national borders remain closed to most foreign visitors.
IOC VP John Coates last week said that the Games would be held “whether there is a state of emergency or not.”
The U.S. has issued a travel advisory recommending that people avoid travel to Japan, and placed the country on its highest level of alert. Nevertheless, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has said that measures in place “will allow for the safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer.”
Medical associations in Japan disagree with that assessment and have called for the Games to be shelved. Son Masayoshi, the colorful businessman who heads the Softbank tech conglomerate, this week said the same.
Japanese authorities have said that cancelling the Games would cost the country $16.5 billion (JPY1.8 trillion). But the Nomura Research Institute this week said that were a fourth wave of emergency declarations to be declared after the Games the economic losses would be higher. It calculates that Japan’s first state of emergency took a JPY6.4 trillion ($58.7 billion) toll on the economy.
Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures are currently enduring their third state of emergency shutdown. The SoE is scheduled to end on May 31, but media report that it may be extended.
Businesses and public are weary of the restrictions and the costs. This week the Japanese film producers’ association Eiren issued a rare statement calling for cinemas to be allowed to reopen.