Many nations, such as the United States, won’t allow tobacco companies to advertise at sporting events. Japan is not one of those countries — and it may pay a big price for that.
Even though there is some debate about if hosting the Olympic Games is financially worth it, plenty of nations are always at the table when the International Olympic Committee is ready to dole out assignments for the next one.
Japan is often one of the ones pulling its chair up at those negotiation sessions. It last had the ginormous quadrennial sporting event when Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Games and women’s hockey players and snowboarders got to go for gold for the first time.
Now Japan is trying to snag the 2020 Summer Games for Tokyo. It is competing against Baku, Azerbaijan; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul; Madrid; and Rome.
The Olympic Committee isn’t supposed to make its final decision on the matter till 2013 but there is some discussion that Japan’s allowance of smoking sponsorships may effectively torch the bid, according to the Washington Times.
Japan Tobacco, the world’s third-largest cigarette maker, sponsored the just-wrapped women’s World Cup volleyball tournament. The company’s “ logo is on the national team uniforms, court-side digital billboards, TV ads and ‘gift’ packages handed out to schoolgirls, mothers and children entering Yoyogi National Stadium and arenas across Japan” during the event, the Times notes.
During the event, an agency of the UN, “an international group of nongovernmental organizations, and hundreds of antismoking activists and doctors in Japan” asked Japan Tobacco to pull out of the event to no avail, the Times notes. Also, a group of 2,500 Japanese doctors think the sponsorship could hurt Japan’s Olympic bid.
“It is going to be a problem for Japan,” said Dr. Manabu Sakuta, chairman of the board of directors of the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, according to the Times. “Smoking is not allowed near the Olympic stadiums. What they are doing at the World Cup volleyball, putting JT mark on the shoulder of players or around the floor, is absolutely forbidden in the Olympics. This is not good for Japan’s hope to host the Olympics.”
However, JT claims that it is promoting its beverage unit at the event, the paper notes, rather than its cigarettes. This piece of info is likely what event organizers will say when reminded by the World Health Organization that the country signed a treaty back in 2004 that “bans all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship everywhere, including at sporting events,” the Times notes.