Tokyo Olympics 2020: Looming delay spells uncertain future for Games' merchandise

Vendors of a vast array of Tokyo 2020-themed trinkets are looking to cash in from a looming postponement of the Games, because of a global coronavirus pandemic, by marketing their items as emblems of something that never happened instead.

Reuters March 24, 2020 18:15:05 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Looming delay spells uncertain future for Games' merchandise

Tokyo: Vendors of a vast array of Tokyo 2020-themed trinkets are looking to cash in from a looming postponement of the Games, because of a global coronavirus pandemic, by marketing their items as emblems of something that never happened instead.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Looming delay spells uncertain future for Games merchandise

Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo. AP

Branded items, from $6 pin badges to $15,000 pieces of gold are on offer to enthusiasts, but as the Games shape up as the first since World War Two not to go ahead as planned, sellers are seizing on the disruption to boost demand.

“With Tokyo 2020 possibly delayed or even cancelled, these are precious items,” wrote one seller offering four Olympics pin badges from a Japanese insurer for about $60 on flea market app Mercari, which is ubiquitous in Japan.

“This may become scarce. Why don’t you take the chance?” read another post offering a stuffed version of official mascot Miraitowa, with the phrase “Tokyo 2020” emblazoned on its forehead.

Ahead of the Games, Olympics fans - some of whom have forked out thousands of dollars for tickets to top-flight events - can buy Tokyo 2020 stamped versions of everything from three-stringed shamisens to silky “sukajan” jackets.

However, the outlook for the world’s biggest sporting event has been hit by global lockdowns spurred by the virus, which has infected 1,852 people and killed 52 in Japan, with a trail of postponed and cancelled events in its wake.

A major delay could leave Games authorities with a gigantic rebranding headache.

In shopping districts across the capital, Tokyo 2020 flags flutter from street lights, while an oversized clock in front of the red-brick Tokyo Station counts down the days to 24 July, when the Games are set to start.

Delay risks pushing Tokyo 2020 items into a niche category of memorabilia accommodating events that did not take place and companies that have ceased trading.

Such items include baseball caps from Lehman Brothers, whose collapse kickstarted a global crisis, and paperweights from failed energy firm Enron Corp, offered online for tens, or even hundreds of dollars.

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