As world grapples with pandemic, Tokyo 2020’s Twitter account puts on a happy face


TOKYO (Reuters) – The official Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games Twitter account offers no inkling that the novel coronavirus pandemic has threatened the Games – and the account’s cheery tone is prompting sarcastic online replies.

Japanese officials insist the Olympics will go on as planned, and the Tokyo 2020 tweets reflect this.

Italy is under a total lockdown amid more than 12,000 infections, but a post showcases the Games’ official mascots, Miraitowa and Someity, conducting a jaunty video tour of Europe. The day Japan ordered schools closed for weeks, the account tweeted rhapsodic praises of spring flowers.

Early in March, as the mascots danced in front of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, “NatsuOtaku” wrote: “Are they going from country to country announcing a postponement?”

Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College specializing in sports economics, said the planning committee’s Twitter game fell short for two big reasons.

“First, the IOC and the Tokyo organizing committee are in denial. They have never had to cancel an Olympics for anything but a world war,” he said.

“Second, they want to control the spin. By pretending that there will be business as usual, they are hoping to keep Olympians in training and Olympic fans in preparation for traveling to Tokyo. If by some good fortune the virus abates and the Olympics are held, they want to make sure the athletes are present and prepared.”

Tokyo 2020’s social media is run by an in-house team. Staff on the international side is a mixture of Japanese and foreigners.

Tokyo 2020 organizers said they were making every effort to respond to changing conditions as quickly as possible.

“Tokyo 2020 is actively engaged in updating the public with the latest information regarding its response to Covid-19 via briefings and press releases to the media, as well as through various owned and operated digital media,” the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said in a statement.

Experts said the medium could be an issue.

“I think they have a certain responsibility to issue correct information, but whether that should be on Twitter or on a different media is the issue,” said Daichi Oshimi, an assistant professor at Tokai University’s Department of Sport and Leisure Management.

Experts agreed that tone aside, clear communication was key to broadcasting an effective message on social media.

“I think that what’s important is to always tell the truth,” said David Wagner, president of David Wagner & Company, a media and crisis management specialist.

“As long as they’re telling the truth, there’s nothing wrong with wishful thinking,” he added.

Reporting by Elaine Lies. Editing by Gerry Doyle