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Japanese Businesses Weigh In on Holding the Tokyo Olympics

Japanese companies have differing views on whether the Tokyo Olympics should go forward or not. Here are some of their varied views.

The Sankei Shimbun

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The business community, which had previously refrained from making any remarks about holding the Tokyo Olympics, became more vocal recently, as the two-month mark before the opening date of the Games approached. 

The most visible pro-Olympic sponsors are those companies that have the advantage of disseminating their products and technical capabilities to the world during the Games. 

However, some others are beginning to see the economic disadvantages of holding the event amidst the continuing uncertainty of when the COVID-19 pandemic will be resolved.

Until recently, few companies had actively spoken out about whether or not to host the Olympics. Public opinion had been divided, and many feared a backlash or damage to their brands if they expressed their opinions either way.

One exception was Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of the electronic commerce and online retail conglomerate Rakuten Group, who publicly commented on the issue in February.  

“We should discuss whether or not it should be held this year,” he tweeted in February. Then, in a May 14 interview on CNN, he referred to the holding of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralymipcs as “a suicide mission.” 

Masayoshi Son, chairman and president of Softbank group, a multinational phone and internet service conglomerate, also posted on Twitter on May 23: “Considering how many lives will be lost, how many subsidies the government will have to pay under the state of emergency, how much the GDP will fall, why are you exploiting the patience of the people? I think that there is more to lose [by holding the Games].”

Some analysts are also questioning the advantages of holding the event. Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at Nomura Research Institute, estimated an economic loss of approximately ¥1.8208 trillion JPY ($16.4 billion USD) if the Olympics were canceled. 

However, if the government declared another state of emergency in order to hold the Olympics, it is expected that the economic losses would be even greater. Economic losses exceeded ¥6 trillion JPY ($55 billion USD) following the declaration of a state of emergency in April 2020 and January 2021.

Sponsors are one group of businesses that are also in a quandary. 

“If we succeed in our brand strategy during the Olympics, we could expect to increase sales over the next few years,” said a food manufacturer, which has invested a lot of money in preparation for the event. 

Another voice that particularly stands out is that of the top executives of a sponsoring company supporting the event, such as Yuji Fukasawa, president of East Japan Railway Co., who said, “It will be a big opportunity to get visitors to return to Japan.”

The importance of the Olympics is not only about the economy, however. It’s also about fostering young people’s dreams. In the past year, IT companies have prided themselves in using technology to host large events despite COVID-19. 

Jun Sawada, president of NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone) Corp., offered a more practical view. He said, “We should be discussing what would be necessary to hold it, not to be pointlessly arguing about whether we should stop it or not.”

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(Click here to read the article in Japanese.) 

Author: Sankei Shimbun