June 2, 2023

Tokyo Olympics bribery scandal threatens to derail Winter Games bid | Japan

More than a calendar year right after the Tokyo Olympics had been held in the center of the Covid-19 pandemic, their legacy has been overshadowed by a bribery scandal that threatens to derail a bid by another Japanese town to host the Wintertime Games.

This summer season, as officials in Sapporo, on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, promoted their bid for the 2030 Game titles, law enforcement arrested Haruyuki Takahashi, a former Tokyo Olympics govt, on suspicion of using bribes in return for serving to providers come to be official sponsors for past year’s function.

Seiko Hashimoto, who changed Yoshiro Mori as head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee just after her predecessor produced sexist remarks about woman sporting activities administrators, this thirty day period acknowledged the corruption allegations could negatively have an effect on Sapporo’s chances.

Describing the circumstance as “very severe”, Hashimoto claimed she hoped investigators would get to the bottom of the 2020 allegations as quickly as achievable. “The significance and value of the Tokyo Games have come into issue,” she additional, in accordance to Kyodo information company.

Takahashi, who is believed to have experienced a essential function in deciding upon sponsors, was final thirty day period indicted for a fourth time, with the former senior running director at Japan’s most important marketing agency, Dentsu, suspected of accepting 198m yen (£1.2m) in bribes from 5 firms. He has denied the allegations.

Haruyuki Takahashi pictured in 2020
Haruyuki Takahashi, pictured in 2020, was indicted very last month for a fourth time. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

In all, 15 men and women have been indicted about the scandal, together with the previous president of a Tokyo-based doll-maker that generated the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, as nicely as former and recent executives from Aoki Holdings, a go well with retailer that provided the Japanese team’s uniforms, and a publishing business and promoting agency.

Mori, a former key minister, volunteered to be interviewed by prosecutors in September amid reviews that Aoki experienced provided him dollars. Prosecutors reported Mori had been questioned as an unsworn witness and not as a suspect.

In a different development, police raided Dentsu’s headquarters late past thirty day period in link with allegations that bids had been rigged to make your mind up which corporations worked on take a look at activities for the Tokyo Game titles, which were being postponed by a year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dentsu was instrumental in aiding Tokyo earn the 2020 Online games when the Global Olympic Committee (IOC) determined the host metropolis in 2013. The organization then secured report domestic sponsorship worthy of about 376bn yen (£2.25bn) – 3 situations that elevated for London 2012, the previous record-holder.

Involvement in the pre-Olympic take a look at functions would have place organizations at a unique edge when it arrived to choosing firms to operate on events throughout the 2020 Game titles.

“We continue to completely cooperate with this investigation,” Dentsu reported in a assertion. Aoki Holdings formerly mentioned it would cooperate with authorities.

Sapporo past hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and had been hoping the Tokyo Game titles, which were primarily held at the rear of closed doorways but finished with out triggering a big Covid outbreak, would bolster its bid.

Sapporo is generally observed as possessing a much better scenario than its only rival, Salt Lake Metropolis, but its campaign has been overshadowed by damaging headlines about Tokyo 2020. Vancouver dropped its bid in October following it unsuccessful to get assistance from the British Columbia govt. The IOC is due to choose the host town future October.

In October, the mayor of Sapporo, Katsuhiro Akimoto, and the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, abruptly cancelled a take a look at to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to encourage the city’s bid. Yamashita claimed the final decision experienced no link with the bribery allegations, blaming “scheduling issues”.

Michael Payne, who is credited with utilizing sponsorship to rework the IOC’s brand name and finances as its director of internet marketing from 1989 to 2004, has stated the bribery scandal is not likely to have an affect on Sapporo’s “technically really robust bid”.

“I feel of this extremely much as a community, political situation,” Payne informed Agence France-Presse after Akimoto’s cancelled take a look at. “It lifted eyebrows as to why they are earning these kinds of a meal out of what frankly is minor sponsor impact-peddling.”

Even though a survey done earlier this 12 months discovered most Hokkaido residents supported the 2030 bid, Sapporo has turned down phone calls for a citywide referendum.

The Asahi Shimbun said the scandal pointed to a “crucial lack of dedication to fairness and transparency”.

“If the allegations turn out to be correct, this is an extraordinary scandal involving just about all the events amid all those awarding and receiving contracts. It is no speculate that the scandal is evoking deep general public distrust,” the newspaper stated in an editorial this week. “A new bid to host the Olympics can not win community assist except structural difficulties behind the scandal are rectified.”

The IOC has attempted to distance itself from the scandal. Its president, Thomas Bach, did not attend an Oct ceremony at Tokyo’s nationwide stadium to mark the very first anniversary of the Olympics and Paralympics, citing a scheduling conflict.

“We have whole self confidence in the Japanese authorities and also the auditors of the organising committee,” the IOC said in a statement. “The IOC has each individual interest in the total clarification of this situation.”