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Bridgestone becomes top tier IOC sponsor

The Associated Press
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TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone signed on as a top-tier global Olympic sponsor Friday in a 10-year deal that will cover the 2020 Tokyo Games and provide further long-term financial security to the IOC.

Bridgestone officials declined to reveal financial terms but the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that Bridgestone will pay $344 million to become a worldwide sponsor under the International Olympic Committee's global commercial program, known as TOP.

The deal runs from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Tokyo Games and the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach was in Tokyo to sign the agreement with Bridgestone CEO and chairman Masaaki Tsuya.

''We are delighted to welcome the company to the TOP program and excited for the long term commitment they have shown to the Olympic movement,'' Bach said.

The Bridgestone deal marks another success for Bach in ensuring the financial stability of the IOC. Last month, NBC signed a $7.75 billion agreement with the IOC to extend its U.S. broadcast rights deal through 2032.

''We want our partnerships to be a win-win situation'' Bach said. ''No company would complete such an agreement unless they didn't see it as a win-win situation.''

IOC contributions from TV and sponsorship revenues for the Tokyo Games should exceed $1 billion, he said. The signing of the Bridgestone contract came three days after Japanese Olympic organizers announced they would review their venue plans for the Tokyo Games because of concerns over rising costs - particularly over the new main stadium.

The TOP program is the highest level of Olympic sponsorship and provides sponsors with exclusive worldwide marketing rights for the Olympics in their designated product category.

Bridgestone becomes the second company - and second from Japan - to sign up through 2024. Panasonic extended its sponsorship through 2024 in February.

The new chairman of the IOC's marketing commission is Japanese IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda, who is also head of the Japanese Olympic Committee.

A total of 11 global companies, including Coca-Cola and McDonald's, are current Top sponsors.

Bach said the signing of such agreements does not compromise the integrity of the games.

''Marketing is very much controlled,'' he said. ''The Olympic Games are the only great event on a worldwide scale which are advertising-free. You don't see advertising in the stadia or on the athletes. The top sponsors understand that all questions relating to sport and athletes are made by the IOC and not our business partners.''

Bach noted there are 2,233 days to go until the Tokyo Olympics and said the deal with Bridgestone will benefit the games.

''It is very obvious that the support of our co-partners including Bridgestone will be extremely important for the success of the games,'' he said.

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