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January 16, 2019

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Takeda graft probe sullies 2020 Tokyo Games, IOC

Tsunekazu Takeda, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee and a powerful IOC member, again denied corruption allegations against him, suggesting yesterday that any guilt was with others at the Japanese body.

Takeda read a seven-minute prepared text and then took no questions from hundreds of media.

Innocent or guilty in a bribery scandal that French authorities suspect helped land the Games for Tokyo, the scandal has cast a shadow over the Olympics that open in 18 months. It also underscores failed efforts by the International Olympic Committee to clean up its bidding process with billions swirling around the preparations of every Olympics.

Tokyo is spending about US$20 billion to prepare for the games.

“I am very sorry for having caused concern for those working very hard to prepare for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics and Paralympics,” Takeda said, speaking only in Japanese.

The last Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were tumultuous from start to finish and ended eventually with the arrest of organizing committee president — and Brazilian Olympic Committee president — Carlos Nuzman, also in a vote-buying scandal.

The Asahi newspaper reported Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada as saying at a separate news conference on Tuesday that the allegations “are not very good for the image” of Japan.

IOC President Thomas Bach, speaking last month, described the Games as “the best prepared” in history. They have overcome early problems that included a plagiarized logo design, and a redesign of a new Olympic stadium because of soaring costs. General cost overruns have continued to be an issue for Tokyo, which is now spending three times more than it said it would when it was selected.

Takeda, a distant member of Japan’s royal family — he is great grandson of the Meiji emperor who ruled late in 19th century and into the 20th — gave only courtesy bows before and after his speech, not the low, sustained bows associated with showing deep remorse.

He acknowledged he had signed off on about US$2 million in payments to a Singapore consulting firm, Black Tidings.

French investigators have linked Black Tidings to Papa Massata Diack, one of the sons of powerful ex-IOC member Lamine Diack of Senegal.

Lamine Diack had huge influence over Olympic voters in Africa. In 2013, IOC members voted for Tokyo, eliminating attractive bids from Madrid and Istanbul.

“The contract (with Black Tidings) was reviewed and I did make the final signature,” Takeda, the head of the IOC marketing commission, said. He called it a “regular commercial contract procedure” and said “there were several others who signed off before me.”

Jeff Kingston, who teaches Japanese politics at Temple University in Tokyo, said in the “end this could be known as the Black Tidings Olympics.”

“It’s a huge black eye for Japan. There is no other way to spin it,” he said.


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