Report: Power Balance in the Mega Sports Event

After working in sports event management in Japan, I realized the importance of paying thorough attention to the sponsors. The sponsors who spend money on sporting events make it possible for us to host mega events, but when that power gets too powerful, problems arise in different way. In the first Sports Daybreak Ing. I summarized how venue for the Tokyo Olympics marathon and race walk moved from Tokyo to Sapporo and clarified the decision-making process. I also pointed out that the IOC and the host city have different perspectives of “Athletes First” and that one of the reasons for this is due to Japan’s lack of communication skills. I think it is an important question whether this issue can be applied to the future bidding and management of the events. We will need to continue to think about how we can reflect the views of the host cities and athletes in the growing power of the IOC and sponsors.

Global Skippers
Sorachi KASHO

Decision Making Power of the IOC and its Sponsors

June. 23rd, 2019
Global Skippers Sorachi KASHO

              How did you react when the venue for the marathon was changed from Tokyo to Sapporo? Many people think that’s a natural decision to do, but for me, having worked on the test event, it was just a disappointment.

I would like to share the experience regarding the Marathon Grand Championship “MGC” of 2019 which included the top/best men and women marathon runners of Japan.

In this tournament, two men and two women were selected to represent Japan. Furthermore, there was also a test event organized on the same course as the one scheduled for the Tokyo Olympics’ marathon. With 16.4 percent viewership, a lot of people were paying attention.

The venue was hotter than during a general situation, but not a single abstained could be seen.

In general, the MGC was regarded as a success, but for some reason the IOC decided to move the marathon to Sapporo.

                Tokyo 2020 has 56 sponsors in different categories. My role in the company is planning and managing the implementation of the event. Therefore, although I rarely interact directly with sponsors, I am required to be considerate of them in the field. In addition, in the face of bloated rights fees, the IOC has no choice but to consider sponsors above all else.

              I want to point out that the IOC and sponsors have too much power on making decisions. Firstly, we look back at who made the decision about relocation and when it happened. Were the host city’s opinions reflected in that? Next, we will look back at the evaluations we received from the pre-event to see if the players and the field’s opinions were reflected in the evaluations. Can someone who hasn’t seen the MGC in Tokyo really make the right choice?

              The MGC took place on September 15th.

 A week later, at the World Athletics in Doha, a tragedy occurred when more than 40 percent of the athletes abstained. The IOC convened a meeting of the Board of Directors and decided to move the venue to Sapporo based on these results. On the 17th, IOC reached an agreement with the organizing committee. Based on the success of the MGC, the Governor of Tokyo insisted that the event would be held in Tokyo, but in the end, a “decision without agreement” was made and the venue was officially moved to Sapporo on December 4.

There is an interesting comparison of the media in different countries. Both claim to be athlete-first, but the data they are referring to is completely different. The Japanese media argued the rationale and significance of having the competition in Tokyo based on the results of the MGC. Meanwhile, media outside of Japan watched the World Athletics in Doha and reported critically on Japan’s response. Rather than the issue of Tokyo in the first place, it came across that the TV stations and sponsors who reported on it don’t want to be criticized.

They want to avoid taking risks, and that even without knowing how much we prepared for holding the marathon in Tokyo.

              what was the reaction of the athletes and the field? The players appreciated the MGC and its preparation. There was an effort to protect from the sun and create a lot of shade, a protection against the heat with ice, and most of all, an overwhelming support from the audience along the sides of the road. Also, athletes from around the world had been preparing for years to train in the heat. No one from the IOC had come to observe this event, and one of the TOP sponsors had not prepared enough, so the start gun was delayed.

The years we had been preparing for the Olympics were instantly taken from us by the IOC’s decision and the people involved lost their jobs. Sapporo has to carry out the plan in six months, which is usually said to take two years, and it is not possible to secure enough people.

Governor Koike fought hard against the IOC as a representative of the host city, but she was not able to deliver on her wishes. This is because the IOC wanted to avoid criticism from the sponsors and make an uncomplicated decision.

To what extent are the rights of the host city respected? Firstly, the host cities need to proceed with negotiations with the IOC and sponsors. Currently, the views of the host city are not reflected in the management of the event. The IOC may be in the top tier on rights, but not on competition management. It is needed to reconsider the unequal host city contract.

Secondly, the power of the IOC and sponsors is growing, it is not controllable anymore. With the current uncertainty about the budget and the distribution to NOCs, integrity is not guaranteed. If we forget who and what the Games are for, there will be no more cities bidding for them.

In conclusion, I think we need to make sure that the rights that the host city has are well publicized. There should be a forum to discuss how to manage the event, including the IOC, the host city, the competing organizations and the athletes. At the same time, to monitor the integrity of the IOC, all those involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. will need to make a noise.



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