March 24, 2020 / 11:49 AM / 2 months ago

Looming delay spells uncertain future for 'Tokyo 2020' merchandise

TOKYO (Reuters) - Vendors of a vast array of Tokyo 2020-themed trinkets are looking to cash in from a looming postponement of the Games, because of a global coronavirus pandemic, by marketing their items as emblems of something that never happened instead.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks past Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa and Paralympic mascot Someity plushies at a building in Tokyo, Japan March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Branded items, from $6 pin badges to $15,000 pieces of gold are on offer to enthusiasts, but as the Games shape up as the first since World War Two not to go ahead as planned, sellers are seizing on the disruption to boost demand.

“With Tokyo 2020 possibly delayed or even canceled, these are precious items,” wrote one seller offering four Olympics pin badges from a Japanese insurer for about $60 on flea market app Mercari, which is ubiquitous in Japan.

“This may become scarce. Why don’t you take the chance?” read another post offering a stuffed version of official mascot Miraitowa, with the phrase “Tokyo 2020” emblazoned on its forehead.

Ahead of the Games, Olympics fans - some of whom have forked out thousands of dollars for tickets to top-flight events - can buy Tokyo 2020 stamped versions of everything from three-stringed shamisens to silky “sukajan” jackets.

However the outlook for the world’s biggest sporting event has been hit by global lockdowns spurred by the virus, which has infected 1,852 people and killed 52 in Japan, with a trail of postponed and canceled events in its wake. [nL4N2AY3AS]

A major delay could leave Games authorities with a gigantic rebranding headache.

In shopping districts across the capital, Tokyo 2020 flags flutter from street lights, while an oversized clock in front of the red-brick Tokyo Station counts down the days to July 24, when the Games are set to start.

Delay risks pushing Tokyo 2020 items into a niche category of memorabilia accommodating events that did not take place and companies that have ceased trading.

Such items include baseball caps from Lehman Brothers, whose collapse kickstarted a global crisis, and paperweights from failed energy firm Enron Corp, offered online for tens, or even hundreds of dollars.

Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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