Tokyo Olympics in jeopardy? Top sponsor joins chorus to call off event
The latest to join the chorus for cancellation of Tokyo Olympic Games is The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, an official sponsor of the games, fewer than two months before the opening ceremony.
Tokyo and other parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency, which is expected to be extended this week until June 20 —which would be just 33 days before the scheduled day of the Olympic opening ceremony —following a spike in COVID cases.
The latest state of emergency in Tokyo started April 25. Infections have dipped, but not as quickly as hoped. The U. variant known as B.1.1.7, considered more contagious, is now dominant in Tokyo, and the variant found in India called B.1.617 has also been detected in Japan. On Wednesday (May 26), more than 4,500 new infections were identified.
The Asahi daily’s editorial urged 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 organizers’ 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.
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said it was “natural” that “different media organizations have different views,” but acknowledged that people are “anxious.”
“The national and local governments have put stringent measures in place to contain the spread of infections, and we believe the situation will improve as a result,” he said.
In recent days, vaccination of the elderly has picked up the pace. It is still expected to take until July or August for most of the elderly to get their shots. The slow progress has fueled domestic opposition to the Olympics including by leading CEOs.
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 earlier this month Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of e-commerce giant Rakuten, called the games “a suicide mission”.
The White House said Tuesday that it supported plans to hold the games, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying, “Our position has not changed on the Olympics.”
“There are very specific entry and movement rules and procedures which the organizers have laid out in order to ensure the protection of everyone involved,” she added.
Cancelling the games would cost Japan around ¥1.8 trillion ($16.6 billion), a research institute has said.