Here's Why This Year's Olympics Are Still Called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

It's been a year of delays and cancellations.

James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Barring a last-minute cancellation due to rising COVID-19 cases in Japan, the Olympics' Opening Ceremony is slated to take place this Friday, July 23, 2021.

The Tokyo 2020 Games are all anyone is talking about right now—even though it's 2021.

While that may be confusing, there's a simple answer: They were scheduled for July to August 2020, but postponed in March, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, until now.

So why are the Olympics still carrying the Tokyo 2020 name when they're taking place well into 2021?

This answer, too, is more simple than you might think. According to Yahoo! Sports, organizers "agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020." A source noted that there are many reasons, but the biggest is this: Tokyo 2020 merch, as well as many other items bearing the year, had already been printed.

"Last year in March, torches, medals, other branding items, and merchandise were already being made using the name 'Tokyo 2020' and a name change would have meant additional costs," a Tokyo organizing committee explained simply, per Yahoo! Sports.

The Olympics this year are already taking a huge financial hit because spectators were banned from the events. This means a loss in sales on everything from souvenirs to food and beverages. The merch had the potential to bring in $100 million from attendees, according to Yahoo! Sports. International visitors had previously already been prohibited from attending, meaning that Tokyo is losing out on money spent in hotels and restaurants, etc.

However, it's not just about how much it would cost the Olympic Planning Committee to scrap a bunch of T-shirts and teddy bears with the wrong year printed on them. By the time the Games were rescheduled, hundreds of thousands of dollars had already been pumped into advertising campaigns and other marketing materials that took years to create. In other words, it would have cost broadcast partners, sponsors, and a whole mess of other people tons of money as well.

"The primary asset the IOC and Tokyo Organizing Committee sells is its intellectual property (IP) and the corresponding brand equity associated with the marks, logos, designations, symbols, etc.," Michael Lynch, a longtime sports marketer who formerly managed Visa's partnership with the Olympics, told the outlet. "All that Olympic IP is branded 2020, including ICO 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. It would be an enormous and unnecessary expense for all of this Olympic IP to be changed."

Some brands have tried to change course slightly, adding nods to the year change into their marketing materials. As Yahoo! Sports pointed out, a few brands are calling this the "202One Olympics" or tossing a "1" inside the second zero in 2020. The fact remains, however, that this year's Olympic Games are the Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite taking place in 2021. 

It's been a weird year. What's one more thing?

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it—find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.