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How to save Tokyo

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00am

There is no doubt that Tokyo will have to make compromises to recover as much as it can of potential revenue losses as it pushes on with the Olympic Games. After a dizzying flurry of news reports, first that the quadrennial event would be cancelled, then that it is going full steam ahead, the question is how they will do it. There are many ways to recoup expenditures, with or without live audiences. Here are some suggestions.

Allow in-venue advertising. People will understand if the Olympics set aside their long-standing rule against advertising collaterals in the venues. This has been one thing setting the Olympics apart from all other sporting competitions. Given the circumstances and the raw courage of the Japanese organizers to move forward, the International Olympic Committee can make an exception just this once. The historic additional advertising can be sold at a premium, since it is more valuable. (One example of exceptions by the IOC  is allowing athletes from war-torn countries to compete stateless under the Olympic banner.)

Virtual ticket sales. More than ever, sports fans don’t just want to see the games, they want to be seen at them. The NBA set the bar during their Florida bubble, with audience members on screens where the regular stands usually are. Before that, football teams in Europe experimented by asking fans to pay to have cardboard cutouts of themselves in the stadiums’ seats. For events like basketball, games have been played in three sessions each day (8 a.m. to 12 noon, 2 to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight), so ticket sales are tripled. With all the events, revenue loss would be minimal.

Localize the athletes. Since collecting everyone in one locale like the athletes’ village is risky, why not distribute the athletes among hotels nearest their venues? This bubble-type set-up will minimize contact with other people. Most athletes usually leave once their events are over. Their rooms - once disinfected - may be then rented out to spectators, ticket holders of other events, or media.

Mail the merchandise. Since the great bulk of merchandise is usually sold at individual venues or shops in the host city, you would have to be physically present to own memorabilia. Why not structure your own online stores to send out the souvenirs, instead? To make them more appealing, Tokyo can rally people around the Games and create a tagline calling for unity. People around the world can get behind such a message. In the past year, the whole world has gotten used to having things delivered, anyway.

Waivers, waivers. When corporations hold team-building events, employees can choose to participate or not. Those who do sign waivers to absolve the company and organizers in case there are injuries or the like. This can be applied to the Olympics, since there is a known risk in attending. This step will provide some measure of protection to the organizers.

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