Toyota cans Games TV ads due to lack of public support
Japanese corporations weigh whether to tie brands to event amid weak backing
Tokyo — Tokyo 2020 Olympics sponsor Toyota will not run Games-related TV commercials because of lacklustre public support for the Olympics, with two-thirds of Japanese doubting a safe Games can be held during the Covid-19 pandemic, local media reported.
Toyota Motor CEO Akio Toyoda will not attend the opening ceremony, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Monday.
Toyota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
About 60 Japanese corporations who have paid more than $3bn for sponsorship rights to the postponed 2020 Olympics now face a dilemma of whether to tie their brands to an event that has so far failed to win strong public backing.
Two-thirds of people in Japan doubt the country can host a safe and secure Olympics amid a fresh wave of coronavirus infections, according to a survey published by the Asahi newspaper just four days before the opening ceremony in Tokyo.
In the poll, 68% of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.
Three-quarters of the 1,444 people in the telephone survey said they agreed with a decision to ban spectators from events.
As Covid-19 cases rise in Tokyo, which is under a fourth state of emergency, public concern has grown that hosting an event with tens of thousands of overseas athletes, officials and journalists could accelerate infection rates in Japan’s capital and introduce variants that are more infectious or deadlier.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has said he hopes the Japanese public will warm to the Games once competition begins and as Japanese athletes begin winning medals. The Tokyo Olympics run from July 23 to August 8.
“We will continue to co-operate and work closely with organisers such as Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020, and the IOC to ensure we have a safe and secure environment for the Games,” government spokesperson, chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular briefing.
Games officials on Sunday reported the first Covid-19 case among competitors in the athletes’ village in Tokyo where 11,000 athletes are expected to stay during the Games. Since July 2, Tokyo 2020 organisers have reported 58 positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists.
Any major outbreak in the village could wreak havoc on competitions because those either infected or isolating would be unable to compete. Olympic officials and individual event organisers have contingency plans to deal with infections among athletes.
A Tokyo 2020 spokesperson said the village is a safe place to stay, adding the infection rate among athletes and other Games-related people visiting Japan is nearly 0.1%.
On Sunday six British track and field athletes with two staff members were forced to isolate after someone on their flight to Japan tested positive for Covid-19.
“Many athletes may have parties or ceremonies before they go to Tokyo where there may be cheering or greeting. So they may also have a risk to get infected in their own countries,” said Koji Wada, a professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare and an adviser on the government’s coronavirus response
The latest surge in cases in Tokyo comes after four earlier waves, the deadliest of which was in January. New Covid-19 cases in Tokyo reached 1,410 on Saturday, the most since the start of the year, with new infections exceeding 1,000 for five consecutive days.
Most of those new cases are among younger people, as Japan has succeeded in getting most of its vulnerable elderly population vaccinated with at least one shot, though only 32% of the overall population has so far received one.
As the start of the Olympics neared, Tokyo on Monday imposed road traffic restrictions, designating reserved lanes for Olympic officials, athletes and journalists travelling between sites.
Transport authorities also hiked toll charges by ¥1,000 for private vehicles using the network of elevated expressways that snake through the city in a bid to reduce traffic during the Games.
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