Olympic sponsor Asahi Shimbun wants to cancel Tokyo Games

Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, an official Tokyo Olympics sponsor, called for the Games to be cancelled yesterday, in the latest sign of opposition less than two months before the opening ceremony on July 23.

The call comes with public opinion in Japan firmly against holding the Games this summer, and after prominent business leaders voiced their concern in recent weeks.

Organisers insist however that the Games are on, saying an extensive rulebook will keep athletes and the Japanese public safe.

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 organisers' assurances it will be safe.

It also accused International Olympic Committee (IOC) leaders, including vice-president John Coates, of being "self-righteous" and "clearly out of step" with the Japanese public.

When asked last week if the Games could be held even during a virus state of emergency, Coates said "the answer is absolutely yes".

Tokyo and other parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency, which is expected to be extended until June 20.

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.

Earlier this month, Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of e-commerce giant Rakuten, told CNN that the risk of organising the Games is too big and he's against having the Tokyo Olympics this year.

Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto acknowledged organisers face "considerable" opposition, but reiterated that the number of overseas participants would be capped and will face tough restrictions while in Japan, and that the Games will not place extra stress on the overstretched local medical system.

IOC chief Thomas Bach said last week that most athletes and those staying at the Olympic village will be vaccinated by the time the Games begin.

Vaccinations for the Japanese contingent will also start from next Tuesday, with doses going to around 600 athletes and 1,000 coaches, training partners and other members of staff.

Cancelling the Games would cost Japan around 1.8 trillion yen (S$22 billion), a research institute said on Tuesday. But the Nomura Research Institute warned that the country could suffer even greater economic damage as a result of holding the Games, if a spike in infections led to a new state of emergency. - AFP