Here's why 'Tokyo 2020' remains official name for this year's Summer Olympics

The COVID-19 pandemic nearly wiped out a multi-billion dollar investment and half a decade of meticulous planning, marketing and merchandising for the Tokyo Olympics.

A year later, thousands of athletes finally traveled to Tokyo to compete in the Games.

Yet signs and souvenirs still carry the official moniker of "Tokyo 2020."

The decision to keep the branding intact came last March, when Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and former prime minister Shinzo Abe agreed to postpone the Games.

Swapping a "0" for a "1" is easier said than done when it comes to the Olympics. The moment a city wins the bid to host the Games, the nation's organizing committee races to lay the foundation for its brand and marketing, said David Stotlar, professor emeritus at the University of Northern Colorado who specializes in sports marketing.

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium.

Changing something at the last minute would erase years of work and investments. Planning the Olympics is a complex and laborious undertaking, Stotlar said.

"The manual for running the Games is about 1,000 pages thick," he told USA TODAY Sports. "It's the flux and that constant change of marketing the Olympics that makes it so much more difficult."

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The Olympics had never been postponed, so while there was no precedent on how to handle the name, Statler said the IOC's commitment to preserving tradition meant keeping the name "Tokyo 2020," rather than explaining why there was a 2021 Olympics.

"Having the Games stay with a 2020 (every four-year cycle) is important to their legacy," Statler said.

Rick Burton, sports marketing professor at Syracuse University who served as chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, said the work involved in hosting an Olympics is, "the Super Bowl times 20."

"There's really nothing to compare to the Olympics," he said.

And changing the name also wouldn't be cheap.

Sponsors in Japan have used the Tokyo 2020 logo since 2015. According to The Wall Street Journal, stores in Japan have been selling merchandise since 2018, with souvenirs ranging from $5 to $15,000; most items are stamped with the "Tokyo 2020" logo.

Changing the logo would have meant adding to the $20 billion budget. With no fans, sponsors are taking a substantial hit in their investments, since a main source of revenue was cut off without international travel. Meanwhile, public support is fading.

Toyota, which signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with the IOC worth around $1 billion in 2015, won't be airing Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Games. A recent poll suggested 83% of people who live in Japan believe the Olympics should not have taken place.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Tokyo 2020' remains official Summer Olympics name, a year later. Why?