A growing bribery scandal surrounding last summer’s Tokyo Olympics continues to be uncovered by Japanese authorities, casting a shadow over Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games.
Prosecutors are attempting to build a bribery case against Haruyuki Takahashi, a former Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) executive who allegedly received money from two companies in exchange for choosing them as sponsors of the Tokyo Olympics.
Takahashi was indicted earlier this month for receiving bribes totaling about $356,000 from Aoki Holdings, a little-known business suit retailer that was selected to provide opening ceremony outfits for Japanese athletes. He is also facing an arrest warrant for supposedly taking bribes worth $531,000 from Kadokawa, which received the rights to publish official Olympic programs. A third company, Daiko Advertising, also had its offices searched last week on suspicion of bribery.
Investigators reportedly questioned former JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda about how Takahashi became a director of the now-defunct organizing committee. Takahashi joined the organizing committee as the last of its 35 directors back in 2014, when Takeda was still a vice president and former prime minister Yoshiro Mori oversaw the group as its president.
Takeda left the JOC in 2019 amid an investigation by French prosecutors for alleged bribery related to Tokyo’s successful Olympic bid. A $2 million payment from a Japanese bank account was sent to a Singapore-based consultancy firm that is linked to the son of former World Athletics president Lamine Diack, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who was sentenced to jail for corruption in 2020.
Takeda currently serves as an outside director of Tokyo-based parking service operator Park24 Co., one of the Olympic sponsors that was searched by prosecutors earlier this month in connection with the bribery allegations.
The expanding list of those involved in the latest bribery scandal raises doubts about Sapporo’s status as frontrunners to host the 2030 Olympics over Salt Lake City and Vancouver, Canada. Last week — one day before two top executives at Kadokawa were arrested for allegedly bribing Takahashi — Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and JOC president Yasuhiro Yamashita called off a joint trip to the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Akimoto, Yamashita, and IOC spokesperson Mark Adams refuted a report that the cancellation was influenced by rising public opposition to Sapporo’s bid, instead claiming that the trip was canceled because of scheduling conflicts.
A final decision is expected at next year’s IOC Session in Mumbai. The 2023 meeting was recently postponed from May until at least September due to ongoing internal disputes within the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and court cases stemming from the IOA’s failure to hold scheduled elections last December.