It is the first of the major Japanese newspapers to take the plunge and joins some regional newspapers that have recently added to growing opposition to hosting the Olympics.
Opposing the Olympics could be important since the newspaper, like many in Japan, is a sponsor of the postponed Tokyo Games which are due to open on July 23. Asahi is generally liberal in leaning and often opposes the ruling party led by the prime minister. Yoshihide Suga.
“We can’t think it’s rational to host the Olympics in the city this summer,” the newspaper said in its editorial, saying, “We are calling for the removal of Prime Minister Suga.”
“The mistrust and backlash against the reckless national government, the Tokyo government and Olympic Games stakeholders are only escalating,” the editorial added. “We ask Prime Minister Suga to calmly assess the circumstances and decide on the cancellation of the summer event. “
Asahi has a reported morning circulation of 5.16 million and 1.55 million for its evening edition. It is the second in circulation behind Yomiuri Shimbun, and subsequently the second largest newspaper in circulation in the world behind Yomiuri.
Despite the editorial, there is no indication that the International Olympic Committee or local organizers are considering ending the games. But opposition is mounting with only a small percentage of Japanese now vaccinated.
Tokyo Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto said on Wednesday he was aware of the editorial, but offered little response.
Asahi is one of some 70 local Olympic sponsors who have contributed nearly $ 3.5 billion to the organizing committee’s budget. He is also one of half a dozen newspapers that are sponsors.
“Of course, different news organizations have different views. And that’s very natural, ”Muto said, adding local partners, or sponsors, continued to offer“ support ”.
Senior IOC member Richard Pound said in an interview with JiJi Press of Japan last week that the deadline to cancel the Olympics was still a month away.
“Before the end of June, you really have to know, yes or no,” JiJi said quoting Pound.
The British Medical Journal called last month for serious consideration of the continuation of the Olympics. Local medical authorities were also skeptical, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son suggested over the weekend that the IOC was forcing the Olympics on Japan.
“Right now, over 80% of the nation’s population want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled,” said Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., which also owns the SoftBank Hawks baseball team. .
“Who is forcing this to move forward and under what rights?” Son added.
Asahi also criticized the IOC, calling it a “pharist” and also lambasted IOC Vice President John Coates. Last week, Coates was asked if the Olympics would take place if the state of emergency was in effect.
“Absolutely, yes,” he replied.
The newspaper said there was a “huge gap” between Coates’ words and the feelings “of the people”.
“Despite its overwhelming size and excessive commercialism and many other issues, the Olympics were supported because of empathy for their ideals. … But what is the reality now? Asahi asked.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government said that a warning from the United States to avoid traveling to Japan would have no impact on the hosting of the Olympics.
Japan officially spent $ 15.4 billion to host the Olympics, and government audits suggest it could be much larger. The IOC earns billions of dollars from the sale of broadcast rights, which represents about 75% of its revenues.
Public opinion polls in Japan show between 60% and 80% want the Olympics canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an online petition calling for the games to be canceled has garnered 400,000 signatures in just a few minutes weeks.
Tokyo, Osaka and other parts of the country are under a state of emergency which is likely to be extended beyond its expiration on May 31.
Organizers and the IOC, often citing the authority of the World Health Organization, say the games can run safely with 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes entering Japan, joined by tens of thousands of judges, officials, sponsors, broadcasters and media.
Foreign supporters have already been banned and organizers are due to announce next month whether supporters will be allowed into Olympic venues.