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After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor the Tokyo Olympics, some of Japan’s biggest companies are now canceling advertising, cutting back on promotional events, and canceling plans for executives to attend the next opening ceremony.
It’s part of an apparent effort by companies to distance themselves from a largely fanless show – an event that many Japanese believe shouldn’t take place in the midst of a pandemic.
On Tuesday, electronics giant Panasonic said its CEO would not attend the Games kick off on Friday. Telecommunications and IT companies NTT, NEC and Fujitsu have announced similar plans for their executives.
A day earlier, automaker Toyota had said its CEO Akio Toyoda would not attend the opening ceremony despite being a major sponsor of the Games. The company is also canceling its advertising related to the Olympics in Japan.
All the firms explained their decisions, noting that spectators are banned from most Olympic events. But corporate sponsors, foreign dignitaries and other VIPs will be allowed, at least during the opening ceremony.
Toyota communications director Jun Nagata told reporters on Monday that the automaker decided to withdraw its ads from the Japanese media market in part because, “for various reasons,” the Games lack popular support.
The implication is clear: some 60 Japanese corporate sponsors pay a record $ 3 billion to associate their products with an event that is normally popular and widely watched. But the latest poll from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper shows that 58% of those polled in Tokyo oppose the holding of the Games.
Nationally, 68% of those polled said they disbelieved the organizers’ claims that international competition can take place safely.
Tokyo and other regions are under a fourth state of emergency, to fight a new wave of coronavirus infections. Despite safety protocols and organizers’ promise to run safe and secure matches, 67 Olympics-related infections were reported on Tuesday.
Some sponsors have canceled promotional stands outside sports venues as there will be no spectators to visit them. Others expressed frustration at the uncertainty and chaos that hampered preparations.
One such example was the controversial announcement by organizers last month, before spectators were widely banned, that alcohol would be sold at Olympic venues. The decision was overturned the next day. But many Japanese were initially outraged that alcohol was sold at the Games, when their own neighborhood bars and restaurants were reportedly still banned from serving alcohol.
There were also suspicions that Asahi Breweries, which had the exclusive rights to sell beer at the Games, had influenced the initial decision. Asahi rulers are among those skipping the Olympics opening ceremony.