With Covid-19 cases rising in Japan, citizens are questioning whether hosting such a major sporting event is appropriate, with some of those set to compete in Tokyo becoming a target.
“We have been deeply concerned by reports that athletes have become the target of some people’s frustrations about the current medical situation,” said Toyota’s Operating Officer Jun Nagata.
Toyota is one of 15 global companies that make up the Olympic Partners (TOP) program — the highest level of Olympic sponsorship — which gives them “category-exclusive marketing rights to the Summer, Winter and Youth Olympic Games.” Toyota became part of The Olympic Partner program in 2015.
“And we have been working to identify what we can do as a sponsor to help that situation because we are really concerned with the situation as a top sponsor,” added Nagata.
“We sincerely hope and wish peace of mind for all the athletes and people of this country that can be ensured, and that’s the frank and honest feeling that we have at this moment.”
Japan has recently extended its third state of emergency in the country amid the pandemic, raising safety concerns over volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public.
An online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has garnered more than 200,000 signatures in the past few days.
Meanwhile the United States’ track and field team (USATF) announced on Wednesday it had canceled its pre-Olympic training camp in Japan, citing uncertainty around the competition.
“USATF provided domestic competitive opportunities through its Journey to Gold — Tokyo series and encouraged Team USATF athletes to stay in the US and train,” the USATF said in a statement.
“USATF and its athletes look forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and are grateful to the people of the Chiba prefecture and all of Japan for their continued support.”
The decision comes as at least 35 out of 528 Olympic “Host Towns” in Japan have canceled deals to take in athletes during the Games.
The “Host Town” project is set to welcome athletes from 184 countries to Japan for training and cultural programs.
On Wednesday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson Mark Adams assured reporters that plans to host the full games are going ahead, despite the growing public concern.
The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23, 2021.
Toyota, one of the leading sponsors of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, says it’s “concerned” with the amount of public frustration being directed at athletes ahead of the spectacle.