February 3, 2023

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Tokyo Olympics bribery scandal threatens to derail Winter Video games bid | Japan

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Greater than a yr after the Tokyo Olympics have been held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, their legacy has been overshadowed by a bribery scandal that threatens to derail a bid by one other Japanese metropolis to host the Winter Video games.

This summer season, as officers in Sapporo, on Japan’s northernmost foremost island of Hokkaido, promoted their bid for the 2030 Video games, police arrested Haruyuki Takahashi, a former Tokyo Olympics government, on suspicion of taking bribes in return for serving to corporations change into official sponsors for final yr’s occasion.

Seiko Hashimoto, who changed Yoshiro Mori as head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee after her predecessor made sexist remarks about feminine sports activities directors, this month acknowledged the corruption allegations may negatively have an effect on Sapporo’s probabilities.

Describing the scenario as “very extreme”, Hashimoto stated she hoped investigators would resolve the 2020 allegations as quickly as attainable. “The importance and worth of the Tokyo Video games have come into query,” she added, in response to Kyodo information company.

Takahashi, who’s believed to have had a key function in choosing sponsors, was final month indicted for a fourth time, with the previous senior managing director at Japan’s largest promoting company, Dentsu, suspected of accepting 198m yen (£1.2m) in bribes from 5 corporations. He has denied the allegations.

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

In all, 15 individuals have been indicted over the scandal, together with the previous president of a Tokyo-based doll-maker that produced the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, in addition to former and present executives from Aoki Holdings, a swimsuit retailer that equipped the Japanese staff’s uniforms, and a publishing agency and promoting company.

Mori, a former prime minister, volunteered to be interviewed by prosecutors in September amid stories that Aoki had given him cash. Prosecutors stated Mori had been questioned as an unsworn witness and never as a suspect.

In a separate improvement, police raided Dentsu’s headquarters late final month in reference to allegations that bids had been rigged to determine which corporations labored on check occasions for the Tokyo Video games, which have been postponed by a yr because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dentsu was instrumental in serving to Tokyo win the 2020 Video games when the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) determined the host metropolis in 2013. The corporate then secured document home sponsorship price about 376bn yen (£2.25bn) – 3 times that raised for London 2012, the earlier record-holder.

Involvement within the pre-Olympic check occasions would have put corporations at a definite benefit when it got here to choosing corporations to work on occasions in the course of the 2020 Video games.

“We proceed to completely cooperate with this investigation,” Dentsu stated in an announcement. Aoki Holdings beforehand stated it will cooperate with authorities.

Sapporo final hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and had been hoping the Tokyo Video games, which have been largely held behind closed doorways however ended with out triggering a serious Covid outbreak, would strengthen its bid.

Sapporo is usually seen as having a stronger case than its solely rival, Salt Lake Metropolis, however its marketing campaign has been overshadowed by damaging headlines about Tokyo 2020. Vancouver dropped its bid in October after it didn’t obtain help from the British Columbia authorities. The IOC is because of determine the host metropolis subsequent October.

In October, the mayor of Sapporo, Katsuhiro Akimoto, and the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, abruptly cancelled a go to to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to advertise town’s bid. Yamashita claimed the choice had no reference to the bribery allegations, blaming “scheduling points”.

Michael Payne, who’s credited with utilizing sponsorship to rework the IOC’s model and funds as its director of promoting from 1989 to 2004, has stated the bribery scandal is unlikely to have an effect on Sapporo’s “technically very robust bid”.

“I consider this very a lot as a neighborhood, political subject,” Payne instructed Agence France-Presse after Akimoto’s cancelled go to. “It raised eyebrows as to why they’re making such a meal out of what frankly is minor sponsor influence-peddling.”

Though a survey performed earlier this yr discovered most Hokkaido residents supported the 2030 bid, Sapporo has rejected requires a citywide referendum.

The Asahi Shimbun stated the scandal pointed to a “essential lack of dedication to equity and transparency”.

“If the allegations grow to be true, that is a rare scandal involving virtually all of the events amongst these awarding and receiving contracts. It’s no marvel that the scandal is evoking deep public mistrust,” the newspaper stated in an editorial this week. “A brand new bid to host the Olympics can’t win public help except structural issues behind the scandal are rectified.”

The IOC has tried to distance itself from the scandal. Its president, Thomas Bach, didn’t attend an October ceremony at Tokyo’s nationwide stadium to mark the primary anniversary of the Olympics and Paralympics, citing a scheduling battle.

“We’ve full confidence within the Japanese authorities and in addition the auditors of the organising committee,” the IOC stated in an announcement. “The IOC has each curiosity within the full clarification of this case.”

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