Japanese Olympic Committee President to quit amid corruption allegations scandal
The President of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) has said he will resign amid allegations of corruption over Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Tsunekazu Takeda, aged 71, who will also step down from the International Olympic Committee, has denied allegations of corruption - as revealed by the Guardian in May 2016 - that the Tokyo Olympic bid team had made payments to a consultancy linked to the son of a disgraced IOC official during the city’s successful bid.
Takeda was head of the Tokyo bidding committee when it was awarded the Games in 2013, defeating rival bids from Madrid and Istanbul.
He said he would resign from both posts when his current term as JOC President ends in June, advising “I would like to leave the future of the JOC to a younger generation to lead up to Tokyo 2020."
Takeda, who is currently under investigation by French authorities for alleged bribery, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
French prosecutors questioned Takeda in Paris and placed him under formal investigation in December last year.
While Takeda, who heads the IOC’s marketing commission, has insisted the payments were legitimate compensation for consultancy services, the investigation has cast a shadow over preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin in less than 500 days.
Kyodo news agency quoted sources as saying the IOC was concerned the scandal could continue to tarnish the image of the 2020 Games, and urged Japanese Olympic officials to quickly resolve the matter.
The French investigation centres on two payments, totalling at least US$2 million, that Tokyo’s bid committee made in July and October 2013 to Black Tidings, an account in Singapore linked to Papa Massata Diack – the son of the disgraced former IAAF President Lamine Diack – and administered by Ian Tan Tong Han.
Some of the Tokyo bid team’s payments were suspected to have been directed towards the elder Diack, who as a powerful member of the IOC at the time had a vote in deciding the host city for the 2020 Games.
Tan and Papa Massata Diack have reportedly been close friends since they met at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, with Tan even naming his child Massata in 2014. The younger Diack claimed in May 2016 that he had not received money in return for helping Tokyo win the Olympic bid.
In September 2016, an independent panel commissioned by the JOC cleared Takeda and other officials who led Tokyo’s bid of any illegal activity.
However, the panel’s investigation was criticised as flawed, since officials were unable to question Tan or either of the Diacks, or to study official committee documents because they had been destroyed after the city was chosen.
The allegations of vote-buying are the most serious of several embarrassments Tokyo has suffered in the run-up to the Games, almost six decades after the city hosted the 1964 Olympics – an event seen as marking Japan’s arrival as a member of the international community after the second world war.
In 2015, Japanese officials abandoned the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s design for the new main stadium after costs soared to US$2 billion, almost twice the initial estimate.
Hadid, who died in 2016, blamed the cancellation on opposition among Japanese architects to having a national stadium designed by a foreigner.
Organisers were later forced to scrap the Games’ official logo amid accusations of plagiarism against the designer, Kenjiro Sano.
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