Promotional ban keeps lid on 540 million yen Games blitz


OSAKA– Despite a ban on international promotional activities until the end of August, the Osaka Olympic Invitation Committee has budgeted over 540 million yen for promoting its 2008 bid abroad during fiscal 2000.

At a regular scheduled committee meeting last week, the city presented basic plans for promoting its bid, including an operating budget.

Contained within the planned expenditures were two categories of public relations and promotion expenses. The first was under the more common “kohohi,” which can be translated both as public information expenses and public relations costs.

This category allocated around 606.5 million yen for domestic promotion, which is allowed under the new International Olympic Committee guidelines for bid cities.

However, there was a second category under the less colloquial and more bureaucratic term “shogaihi,” which also means PR expenses.

This amount totals around 540.7 million yen for the 2000 fiscal year, which runs until next March 31, and will be used almost solely for promoting Osaka’s name overseas. City officials said that, as the Olympic bid has been privatized, the categories were separated only for accounting purposes.

Of the 540 million yen, the Olympic committee plans to spend 101.7 million yen on gathering information and planning strategy for overseas promotions. Another expense, titled overseas presentations, totals nearly 220 million yen. This money is to be used, according to the city, for effective PR activities that have been approved by the International Olympic Committee.

But the IOC has made it very clear that no international public relations efforts by cities interested in the 2008 Games will be allowed until the official candidates are selected at the end of August. Told of Osaka’s budget plans, Emanuel Noreau, a spokeswoman for the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, expressed surprise.

“That’s a lot of money, considering there is currently a ban on international promotion activities (by bid cities),” she said.

At a meeting with prospective candidate cities in February, the IOC announced a series of stringent new rules to prevent the kind of bribery scandals that occurred in Salt Lake City, Nagano and Sydney during their Olympic bids. In addition to the ban on international promotions, the new rules forbid IOC members to visit bid cities and bid cities to visit IOC members.

Osaka officials said the period between now and August was to be used as a preparation period for eventual overseas promotion activities. Assuming Osaka is allowed to become an official bid city, it will have only about 10 months to conduct overseas campaigns before the IOC general assembly selects the 2008 host in July 2001.

Yet Osaka is making promotional budgets without a clear direction of what will happen during the second stage of the bidding process. The rules that went into effect in February are valid until August. After that, promotional procedures for official bid cities are unclear.

What kinds of overseas promotional activities will be allowed during the second stage will be discussed at an IOC meeting in Rio de Janeiro in May, Noreau said. The Rio meeting may also cover how to deal with such sensitive and still largely unresolved issues as third-party lobbying of IOC members in their home countries on behalf of a candidate city.

Thus, Osaka, which has little name recognition overseas compared with rivals Beijing and Paris, is faced with the frustration of having to quickly formulate an effective strategy to gain overseas publicity at a time when the IOC insists on taking things slowly and one step at time.