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Explained: Why 2021 Olympics Are Still Referred to as 2020 Tokyo Games


The 32nd edition of the Summer Games is finally underway in Japan after a year-long hiatus. The Olympics were originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo organizers decided to postpone the 2020 Olympics by a year. And, presently the colossal event is taking place in Tokyo in 2021. Even though the mega-event is taking place in 2021, the phrase ‘2020 Tokyo Games’ is plastered everywhere from airports signs to TV commercials to flags.

The reason behind this interesting anomaly is that the 2021 Olympics are still officially the 2020 Games. Last year, when the deferment of the Summer Games was announced, the organizers had decided to “keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

The decision was taken with a view to reducing the additional cost as millions were already paid in manufacturing of torch and medals amid other things. The other viewpoint was the commercial one as they wanted to continue with the ‘2020 Tokyo’ as 2020 was getting used for promotion purposes from the last four years ever since the conclusion of the 2016 Rio Games.

According to reports, the organizers had already spent millions in promoting ‘2020 Tokyo’ in form of flags, mascots, t-shirt, animals and souvenirs of all kinds among other things.

Several veteran sports marketers have also agreed that keeping the 2020 Tokyo Brand was the right way to go, including Michael Lynch, who is known for managing visa’s sponsorship of the Games.

Explaining the organizer’s decision, Lynch told Yahoo Sports, “The primary asset the IOC and Tokyo Organizing Committee sells is its intellectual property and the corresponding brand equity associated with the marks, logos, designations, symbols, etc.”

He further stressed that every Olympic IP was branded 2020 – from promotional creative, licensed merchandise, tickets, on-site signage or IOC and organizing committee’s personal creative – were ready to hit the market when the Games were postponed. So changing everything logo, every creative cut from 2020 to 2021 would have been and “an enormous and unnecessary expense.”

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