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A major Japanese newspaper — with the second-largest circulation in the world — has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled, less than two months before the opening ceremony is set to kick off.
The typically left-leaning Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Wednesday became the first of Japan’s major papers to take a stand against the games — even though it is an official sponsor.
It joins a chorus of regional outlets that have already voiced opposition to the global event as the country struggles to contain a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The headline of the editorial read: “We Demand PM Suga Decide Cancellation.”
“We cannot think it’s rational to host the Olympics in the city this summer,” it charged.
“Distrust and backlash against the reckless national government, Tokyo government and stakeholders in the Olympics are nothing but escalating,” the pointed piece continued.
“We demand Prime Minister Suga to calmly evaluate the circumstances and decide the cancellation of the summer event.”
The newspaper lambasted the International Committee as “self-righteous,” singling out comments by vice president John Coates, who said last week that the Olympics would “absolutely” still be held if a state of emergency were in effect.
The news outlet also pointed out 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,” Asahi said. “But what is the reality now?”
The International Olympic Committee and local organizers have repeatedly resisted pulling the plug on the Summer Games.
But opposition has grown, with only a small percentage of the Japanese population vaccinated against COVID-19 and the country battling a new wave of infections.
Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto acknowledged he was aware of the editorial, but offered little response.
“Of course, different press organizations have different views,” Muto said. “And that’s very natural.”
He added that local partners, or sponsors, have continued to offer “support.”
But Asahi, which is one of about 70 local Olympic sponsors, is not one of them — despite contributing to the nearly $3.5 billion raised by the sponsors to the organizing committee budget.
The paper has a morning circulation reported at 5.16 million, and 1.55 million for its evening edition.
It is second in circulation worldwide behind another Japanese publication, Yomiuri Shimbun.
It is among a half-dozen newspapers that are sponsors.
The Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony is scheduled for July 23, and the games will run through Aug. 8.
Senior IOC member Richard Pound told Japan’s JiJi Press last week that the final deadline to call off the games is “before the end of June.”
With Post wires
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