Major sponsor Toyota won’t air Tokyo Olympics ads or attend opening ceremony

Toyota will not show Olympic-related TV ads and its executives will not attend the event’s opening ceremony – despite being one of its top corporate sponsors.

The decision by Japan’s top carmaker comes as the country’s decision to go ahead with hosting the delayed Games despite rising COVID-19 case numbers divides public opinion.

Toyota became the first car company to sign up up as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015, in an eight-year deal reportedly worth nearly $1bn.

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But on Monday it confirmed that chief executive Akio Toyoda would not be attending Friday’s opening ceremony and that it would not show TV commercials related to the Games.

That is despite about 200 athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics who are affiliated with Toyota


Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata said: “There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood.”

The company said it will continue to support its athletes.

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Corporations are usually keen to be linked to the Olympics because the association is seen as giving a boost to their brands.

But some are now viewing it as problematic to be linked to the troubled pandemic-era games, which are going ahead despite the Japanese capital being under a state of emergency.

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Most events, including the opening ceremony, will go ahead without fans in the venues.

Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said: “There is a mixed public sentiment towards the Games.

“I need to emphasise that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020.

“They are passionate about making these Games happen.”

Image: Most events will go ahead without fans in venues Pic: AP

Some 60 Japanese corporations, which have paid a total of more than $3bn for sponsorship rights to the postponed 2020 Olympics, face a similar dilemma to that of Toyota.

In an Asahi newspaper poll, 68% of people expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

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 2 July, organisers have reported 58 positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists.