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Tokyo 2020: Major sponsor Toyota distances itself from Olympic Games

  • July 19, 2021

“There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood,” Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters in Tokyo on Monday.

Nagata also announced that company executives including CEO Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder of Japan’s biggest carmaker, would not attend Friday’s opening ceremony. 

The decision comes against a backdrop of less than enthusiastic support among the Japanese public for the Games while COVID-19 infections continue to rise in the country. A weekend poll published by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 55% of respondents were opposed to holding the Olympics this summer, with just 33% in favor.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged that the Games will be “safe and secure,” but 68% of those who responded in the Asahi poll said they thought that was impossible.

Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya responded to the Toyota decision by asserting that sponsors generally remain supportive – although the lack of public support for the Games hasn’t made it easy for them. 

“I know those partners and sponsors must have been struggling to support Tokyo 2020,” he told reporters on Monday. “Of course, considering the public sentiment … there must be a decision by each company in terms of how they should be able to advertise, how they should be able to convey their messages to the public audiences.”

The Toyota Motor Corp. signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015, in an eight-year deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion. The sponsorship, which started globally in 2017, runs through the 2024 Olympics, covering three consecutive Olympics in Asia, including the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Tokyo Games and the forthcoming Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.

Olympic organizers on Sunday reported the first COVID-19 cases among competitors in the athletes’ village in Tokyo where 6,700 athletes are expected to stay during the Games. Since July 2, Tokyo 2020 organizers have reported dozens of positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists.

pfd/mf (Reuters, AP)

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