With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed until next summer because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, China’s sports organizers and sports-related businesses are starting to feel the heat.
In a statement Monday, the International Olympic Committee said the Summer Games will instead take place from July 23 to Aug. 8 of next year. In an interview Tuesday with Xinhua News Agency, a representative from the planning committee of the Beijing Winter Olympics, scheduled for February 2022, said the committee is evaluating the potential impact of the Tokyo Games’ postponement.
“We will face the unique situation of holding the Summer and Winter Olympics and Paralympics all in the span of about six months,” the spokesperson said. “Based on the newly determined dates for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we will evaluate the impact on preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.”
Some experts say the postponement should have a limited effect on the Beijing Winter Games. “We don't have so many winter sports stars like we do in the Summer Olympics,” He Wenyi, executive director of the China Institute for Sports Value at Peking University, told the Global Times, adding that stars are “the core of sports marketing.” He also said any Olympics-related promotional events would be “unlikely to be hugely affected.”
However, Han Mengying, a senior analyst at consulting firm Analysys, told Sixth Tone that the reduced interval between the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics could affect the Winter Games’ market penetration and commercial value.
“The original schedule gives an entire transition cycle of two years, which is preferable,” she said. “The shortened break makes the two countries’ arrangements quite tight, and brings competition for the same intellectual property.”
From a macro perspective, as sports events become concentrated in the same year, the postponement may also affect other, smaller sports competitions as they struggle with their schedules and try to attract the attention of both viewers and sponsors, Han said.
Another major sports event in China, the quadrennial National Games, are currently slated to be held in northwestern Shaanxi province in 2021 but are likely to be postponed, according to domestic media. The schedules of the 2021 Summer World University Games in Chengdu and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou may also be affected.
Meanwhile, Chinese businesses and entertainment groups — already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic — are also under pressure because of the Tokyo Olympics’ postponement.
E-commerce giant Alibaba, which reportedly paid 5 billion yuan ($705 million) to sponsor the Tokyo Games, has reportedly canceled its Olympics-related offline events since late January due to the pandemic. And a WeMedia account covering China’s entertainment industry noted that at least 16 preplanned sports-themed variety shows that were originally planning to premiere this year on television and video-streaming platforms could have their production plans delayed.
According to the analyst, Han, brands with established marketing strategies as well as sports-related initiatives and content are having to rethink their plans. However, Han sees opportunities for brands and sports-related media to promote the mass consumption of a full spectrum of sports by Chinese audiences.
“As the pandemic gives the public a better understanding of disease and personal health, it’s actually laying a good foundation for the subsequent dissemination and guidance of mass sports,” she said. “Sports-related media platforms can guide people to participate in more public sporting events, which can be a good direction that allows platforms to be more focused on their long-term marketing strategies.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A still frame from Tencent’s sports competition show Super Nova Games, 2019. From @腾讯视频超新星全运会 on Weibo)