NAGANO – When the Beijing Olympics torch relay takes place April 26 in Nagano, there will be no vehicles bearing the logos of corporate sponsors, now that three sponsor firms of the games have canceled plans to contribute such autos.
Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Lenovo Japan Ltd. and Samsung Japan Corp. made their decisions by Friday apparently because the torch relay has become the target of street demonstrations in many parts of the world amid the growing condemnation of China’s human rights record.
The Japanese unit of Coca-Cola Co. of the U.S. had intended to offer a vehicle to run in front of the torch runner but dropped the plan on grounds that it would not do much to promote its products.
Olympic gold-winning swimmer Kosuke Kitajima will serve as a torchbearer as scheduled, according to the company. The soft drink maker is a sponsor for Kitajima.
A Lenovo Japan official said the cancellation stems from its budget constraints because it would cost ¥6 million to ¥10 million to contribute a vehicle for the relay.
But two athletes it backs, Olympic silver-winning marathon runner Yuko Arimori and sprinter Shingo Suetsugu, will carry the torch as scheduled, said the Japanese arm of the Chinese computer maker.
Samsung Japan said it has concluded in consultation with Nagano’s executive committee organizing the torch relay that the motorcade should not become too long.
Still, the Japan unit of the South Korean electronics giant will field comedian Kinichi Hagimoto and Senichi Hoshino, manager of Japan’s national baseball team for the Olympics, as torchbearers.
In New York Thursday, Human Rights Watch labeled Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. along with General Electric Co. and 10 other firms as “top sponsors” of the Beijing Olympics and said they “remained largely silent” about human rights violations China has committed in its preparation for the games as well as its crackdown in Tibet. Their silence contradicts “their widely publicized commitments to the principles of corporate social responsibility and human rights,” the rights group said.