The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

It has been more than three years since Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and there are about three years left before that momentous event. Halfway through the preparations, now is a good time to take stock: What is the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) doing to help make the Games a success? Will Japan be ready?

The ACCJ established the Olympics and Sports Business Committee with the objective of collaborating with the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, national and local governments, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), sponsors, and other related parties to make the Games a success. This involves sharing experiences and lessons learned from our members: information on design, preparation, and implementation, gleaned from supporting previous Olympic Games and international and world championship sporting events. We are coordinating activities and hosting events to support preparations, and providing information on possible business and volunteering opportunities for members.

We have hosted speakers including the Tokyo 2020 spokeswoman Hikariko Ono and IOC Vice President John Coates and learned from sports marketing experts how sponsors and non-sponsors can engage and associate their brands with athletes, sporting competitions, and the Games without running afoul of the rules. Also, with the Japanese Paralympic Committee, we are discussing the requirements of the Paralympics and how they can accelerate diversity.

Expectations for 2020 are lofty, and interest from government, business, and the public is great. Following the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the surprise appearance of Prime Minister Abe dressed as Super Mario at the concluding ceremony, the world’s attention has now turned to Tokyo. The number and value of sponsorships already concluded for 2020 is unprecedented, indicating robust corporate interest. Tokyo 2020 has also faced challenges, including controversies over expanding budgets, venues, and a logo that was redesigned after allegations of plagiarism.

The most recent blemish concerns the Olympic golf venue. The private club north of Tokyo does not allow women to be full members. Officials, including Governor Yuriko Koike and Tokyo 2020 Chairman Yoshiro Mori, have questioned the suitability of the venue, and it has now come to light that the membership policy was not disclosed to the IOC in Tokyo’s bid.

Three years on and three years to go. From a technical perspective, Japan should be ready, but Tokyo 2020 is not just an international sporting event. As a metaphor for the broader reform and societal change required to propel Japan into a leadership position in the 21st century, there is still far to go. I am hopeful that we are headed in the right direction and that the ACCJ can play a role in helping Japan get there.

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Jonathan Kushner is vice president ACCJ–Tokyo