Tokyo Olympics sponsors pay Sh356b, but more needed

FILE – In this March 24, 2020, file photo, a man is seen through the Olympic rings in front of the New National Stadium in Tokyo. Tokyo Olympic organizers on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, announced a series of 18 test events set to begin in March and run into May. [AP Photo, Jae C. Hong, File]

Domestic sponsors have already contributed a record of $3.3 billion (Sh356 billion) to help pay for the Tokyo Olympics. That’s at least twice as much as any previous Games.

But it’s still not enough.

Now they’re being asked to pay millions more to cover some of the soaring costs of the one-year postponement.

This comes as Japanese businesses are battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, raising doubts about re-investing in an Olympics that may be short on fans, but long on pandemic-related rules to discourage tourists, sightseeing and spending.

“We are in the process of asking for additional sponsorship (payments) from our partners,” organising committee CEO Toshiro Muto said last week as he detailed why the postponement will cost organizers and Japanese taxpayers an extra $2.8 billion. “The sponsors have expressed the willingness to contribute to the Games next year. But they have not specified an amount.”

None of the the nearly 70 domestic sponsors is saying “no”— at least publicly — to an Olympics backed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and driven by Japan’s powerful advertising conglomerate Dentsu Inc., the official marketing agency for the Tokyo Olympics.

Dentsu helped land the Olympics, lined up the sponsors, and stands to profit with the Olympics opening on July 23, 2021.

Little arm-twisting may be needed to keep sponsors on board. Harmony and consensus are valued in Japan, and this stretches to the corporate world. It’s best illustrated by this Japanese saying: The nail that sticks up gets hammered down (Deru kugi wa utareru.).

Pulling off the Olympics is viewed as a national project, a matter of honour and saving face. Doubts expressed behind the scenes are unlikely to trickle to the surface. Some sponsors might offer additional “in-kind” payments — contributions not made in cash — but there has been little open dissent and few contract details made public. In the end, any shortfall is likely to be made up by taxpayers.

Among the domestic sponsors is Japanese airline ANA, which posted losses of $1.8 billion through the first half of the fiscal year, and travel agency JTB with losses of $750 million in the same period.

Also on board is the financial services company Nomura, both Narita and Haneda airports, food makers such as Kikkoman and Ajinomoto, and the SkyTree tower. The Japanese media, charged with covering the Olympics, are also on in droves including top newspapers Mainichi, Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Asahi.

Associated Press contacted a dozen sponsors and almost all refused to comment. A Tokyo Gas spokesperson said that organizers had advised against speaking to the media.

One of few on-the record comments came from instant noodle maker Nissin, which has registered 63 per cent growth. [AP]


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