Frustrated by delays, Tokyo 2020 sponsors cancel promotional events

Japanese companies also worry being linked with Olympics will be unpopular

Japan is considering banning all spectators from Tokyo 2020. Photograph: EPA

Japanese Olympics sponsors are cancelling or scaling back booths and promotional events tied to the Tokyo 2020 Games, frustrated by "very last minute" decisions by organisers and a delay on whether spectators would be allowed.

The moves by more than a dozen companies, including Canon, Tokio Marine and Nichido Fire Insurance and Ajinomoto, highlight the delicate situation for sponsors, who have tied themselves to a Games now hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and public opposition.

Some 60 Japanese companies paid a record of more than $3 billion for sponsorship rights and then another $200 million to extend their contracts after the Games were delayed last year due to the pandemic. Unlike “worldwide partners” with multi-year deals, domestic sponsors are only involved in the Tokyo Games.

They have been frustrated by what one of the sources described as “impromptu” decisions by organisers, particularly the months-long delay on whether spectators would be allowed.


Organisers had banned overseas spectators and planned a cap on domestic viewers at 50 per cent of capacity, or up to 10,000 people.

But now just two weeks away from the start, Japan is likely to ban all spectators as it prepares to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo that will run through its hosting of the event.

“We are finally making decisions on our own, without waiting for the organisers’ cue,” said one source, an employee at one sponsor, who, like other people interviewed, declined to be identified because the information is not public.

“It’s a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ situation for sponsors, but everyone is starting to take action.”

Tokyo 2020 said they could not immediately reply to a request for comment due to enormous amounts of inquiries.

Organisers are set to formally reach a decision on spectators later on Thursday, the Asahi daily said.