Toyota Pulls Olympics TV Ads, CEO to Skip Opening Ceremony

Toyota Motor Corp. won’t air television advertisements in Japan during the Olympics and its president won’t attend the opening ceremony as concerns about holding the Games amid the pandemic mount just days before they’re due to get underway.

The decision by Toyota, which remains a global sponsor of the event, comes after U.S. tennis star Coco Gauff withdrew because she contracted Covid-19 and as two South African footballers tested positive at the athletes’ village.

Toyota spokesperson Shino Yamada confirmed the decision not to air commercials, which was earlier reported by Kyodo News. Part of the reason President Akio Toyoda won’t attend the opening ceremony is because no spectators will be allowed into events, Yamada said.

The Games, which start Friday, will be the first to be held without spectators. Tokyo is grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases, which prompted the government to declare a fourth state of emergency in the capital earlier this month. The city reported 1,410 new infections Saturday, the most since Jan. 21.

Toyota will continue to support the Games, including displaying its logo and offering rides to athletes, Yamada said in an email.

“We are not withdrawing the plan because of short-term issues or the current situation,” the spokesperson said. “It’s something we’ve considered for a while given Japan’s Covid situation.”

There’s mounting concern over the spread of coronavirus infections among athletes, coaches and other Olympic-related staff. An article in The Medical Journal of Australia said the daily athlete-testing strategy may not be enough to prevent infections.

“It is proposed that all 11,000 athletes will gather daily at a dedicated testing area in the village to ensure testing,” which is more than the typical daily test peak of 10,000 people in Tokyo, the journal said. “The opportunity for transmission within this single location must be considerable.”

Three members of South Africa men’s under-23 soccer squad -- players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi, and a video analyst -- have tested positive and are isolating, the nation’s football association said in a statement. The nation’s Rugby Sevens coach Neil Powell also had a positive test.

Toyota Pulls Olympics TV Ads, CEO to Skip Opening Ceremony

Taka Masaya, a spokesman for the Tokyo Games said that while he wasn’t aware of the report Toyota wouldn’t air commercials, “what I can tell you is those partners and sponsors must have been struggling to support Tokyo 2020.”

“There is a mixed public sentiment towards the games,” Masaya said at a press conference Monday. “There must be a decision by each company in terms of how they should be able to convey their messages to the public audiences from a corporate perspective.”

A survey carried out by broadcaster JNN on July 3-4 found 35% of respondents were in favor of a spectator-less Olympics, while 26% wanted to allow some fans, and 34% wanted to cancel the games or postpone them again.

Toyota said in June that it hopes to see the public and Olympic athletes get “a satisfactory explanation” about the purpose of holding the games. Other business leaders have also spoken out about holding the Games.

Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of SoftBank Group Corp., criticized the push to hold the Games, while Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive officer of online retailer Rakuten Group Inc., in May compared them to a “suicide mission.” An editorial in the Asahi newspaper, another sponsor, called for the games to be canceled.

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