Businesses salivate over games boost

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

With the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics headed to Tokyo, many see the next seven years as a chance to revive the nation’s moribund economy.

Expectations are rising in a number of industries, not only construction, tourism and sporting goods — the usual beneficiaries — but also security, translation and even towel making.

Hosting the games will motivate people, especially children and teens who might have a chance to partake in them as Olympians, an employee at major sporting goods maker Mizuno Corp. said.

“In that sense, there will be more people playing sports, which will expand the market, so we think (the Olympics) will provide a boost for our business,” the employee said.

In addition to gear, the sporting goods industry will of course cash in on the usual demand for related goods, including replicas of Japan’s Olympic uniforms.

When Mizuno manufactured the jackets worn by the national team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, its original goal was to sell 5,000 units. It ultimately sold 40,000.

Official Olympics products are nearly always popular. According to an estimate by SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., sales of Olympic products hit ¥885 billion at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, blowing away the initial estimate of ¥150 billion.

Manufacturers of towels — a classic product associated with the games that is also essential to athletes — are also expecting big business.

“I think the demand for towels will grow for sure,” said Seiji Kondo, who represents the Shikoku Towel Industrial Association.

Shikoku is home to the city of Imabari — Japan’s top towel-producing area. The association has been making an organized effort to promote the high-quality towels from Ehime Prefecture for about seven years.

“Putting increasing recognition of the Imabari brand together with Tokyo’s winning the bid for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I think the business opportunities for the next seven years are tremendous,” Kondo said.

If the Imabari brand is chosen as the official producer of Olympic towels, manufacturers on the island will receive a huge number of orders, he said.

Moreover, towels will be used for promotional purposes even before the Olympics, and more standard towels are expected to be ordered by hotels to prepare for the massive influx of tourists, Kondo said.

Demand for promotional towels is usually strong, he said, citing their popularity during the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Retailers and manufacturers, however, are not the only ones likely to see a jump in business. Demand for private security services is expected to soar to safeguard buildings and construction sites in the run-up to the games, and the athletes and crowds once they begin.

According to Tokyo’s official candidate file, the capital plans to deploy about 50,000 security guards, including 14,000 from the private sector, during the 2020 Olympics.

“Fourteen thousand security personnel for one event is quite a large number,” because it accounts for more than 10 percent of Tokyo’s private-sector security industry, said Kazumasa Takahashi, a senior official with the Tokyo Security Service Association.

Overall, Tokyo has about 100,000 private security guards, Takahashi said.

The need for security will naturally be considerable during the Olympic Games, but Takahashi said the sector will probably see a boost even before they kick off because of the need to protect the many construction sites.

Another industry likely to be affected is the translation sector.

An executive at one translation firm who wished to remain anonymous said that while it is unclear how much demand there will be and what kind of work will be needed, requests for translators and interpreters from public entities, especially the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, will probably rise.

But the 2020 Games will also see more international conventions and meetings held in Tokyo over the next seven years, which should drum up more demand especially for interpreters, he added.

“I think companies that provide both text-based translation and interpreters will have business opportunities,” he said.