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Coca-Cola Co. (KO) Goes Flat in Japan

The current negativity surrounding the relay of the Olympic torch as it makes its way across the globe is having effects on large sponsors. Coca-Cola has canceled its plans to sponsor a float during the Japanese leg of the relay, in an obvious sign that the recent protests and bad press over China’s treatment of Tibet are scaring away business.

Japan’s Coca-Cola unit initially planned to have a logo-laden vehicle precede the torch runners as they made their way through Japan on Friday. The company has withdrawn this plan, citing “security concerns”, according to a spokeswoman. She did, however, claim that the decision was not related to the political climate.

Coke plans to continue the remainder of its Olympic sponsorship plans in Japan, which include sponsoring athletes and a line of special-edition bottles related to the upcoming Olympic Games. As Coke has withdrawn, so have two Japanese-based companies who are saying that their reasons for doing so are logistical or budgetary. This leaves the Japanese leg of the relay without any visible corporate sponsorship.

Some companies, like Coca-Cola, have dished out record amounts of money – some as high as $120 million – to sponsor the Beijing Olympic Games. It certainly seems that politics will be playing a big part in the continued participation of big business, despite the Games being intended as a more neutral and world-unifying event.

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