Why Are the 2021 Olympics Still Being Called 'Tokyo 2020?'

Ecuador's Angie Paola Palacios Dajomes during a weightlifting competition on July 27.
Ecuador's Angie Paola Palacios Dajomes during a weightlifting competition on July 27. / Chris Graythen/Getty Images

You could probably understand if some Olympic sponsors neglected to update their messaging from “Tokyo 2020” to “Tokyo 2021” in an ad or on a T-shirt here or there. But since “Tokyo 2020” is everywhere—and “Tokyo 2021” is practically nowhere—it seems like the choice not to change the name of this year's Summer Games was intentional across the board.

As Sporting News reports, it was. In late March of last year, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced that the 2020 Summer Games would be postponed until 2021, they also decided that “the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

Though the Games were still a few months off at that point, “Tokyo 2020” had already been in the public consciousness for years. According to USA Today, Japanese sponsors started introducing the Tokyo 2020 logo way back in 2015, and branded merchandise followed about three years later. For the organizers, sponsors, broadcasters, and anyone else licensing the designs to be forced to change their products so late in the process would’ve been massively expensive.

“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.,” Michael Lynch, a sports marketer who previously oversaw Visa’s Olympic sponsorship campaign, told Yahoo! Sports. “All that Olympic IP is branded 2020, including IOC and [organizing committee] creative, sponsor creative, advertising creative, promotional creative, licensed merchandise, tickets, on-site signage, events, you name it, all about to hit the market.”

The Olympics are already costing Japan upwards of $20 billion. And since fans aren’t allowed to attend, there won’t be an influx of tourism-related revenue to help defray the costs. Ballooning the bill further to fix the branding—and requiring everyone else to follow suit—would’ve only put more financial strain on a country whose citizens have voiced opposition to holding the Games at all due to the pandemic.

This way, everyone involved saves some money, and those of us watching the Olympics at home will just have to rely on our calendars to remind us what year it is.

[h/t Sporting News]