五輪招致疑惑 厳正に実態の解明を

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 20
EDITORIAL: Rigorous probe needed to study Tokyo Olympics bid payments
(社説)五輪招致疑惑 厳正に実態の解明を
Dark clouds of suspicion are gathering over Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Allegations have emerged that Japan made dubious cash payments to win the right to hold the world’s largest sports event in its capital.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) has decided to form a special task force to investigate the allegations, which will include at least one independent lawyer.

As the host of the Summer Games in 2020, Japan is responsible for rigorously confronting and responding to the allegations.

The government, which strongly supported Tokyo’s bid, should actively cooperate in the investigation to help establish the truth.

The suspicion of bribery came to light when French prosecutors said earlier this month that they had launched a probe into dubious cash transfers from a bank in Japan to the account in Singapore of a company with an unsavory reputation. The focus of the inquiry is on the JOC’s payments of some 230 million yen ($2.09 million) to the consulting firm in the months immediately prior to and after Tokyo was awarded the Games in 2013.

The company, Black Tidings, is believed to have close ties with the son of Lamine Diack, the now disgraced former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations and member of the International Olympic Committee. Diack is suspected of having played a role in covering up a Russian doping case.

The company disappeared in 2014 after Tokyo was chosen in September 2013 as the 2020 host, beating Madrid and Istanbul in an IOC vote in Buenos Aires.

People involved in Tokyo’s winning bid have denied any wrongdoing in their campaign, claiming the funds were paid as legitimate consulting fees.

But no specifics about the services provided by the company have been offered.

The people involved say they cannot reveal the details because of a confidentiality agreement with the firm.
But the appropriateness of paying more than 200 million yen in consulting fees should be examined.

Serious efforts should also be made to determine how the company spent the money.

During a recent Diet session, Tsunekazu Takeda, one of the leaders of Tokyo’s Olympics bid, faced questions about whether the consulting firm had been selected in an aboveboard manner.

It has been reported that a person working for the company approached the JOC for a contract to provide consulting services for Tokyo’s bid. Before deciding to hire the company, the JOC sought input from Dentsu Inc., the leading ad agency contracted for the JOC’s marketing and advertising activities. Dentsu reportedly told the JOC that the individual merited receiving the consulting contract.

Dentsu should cooperate with the efforts to investigate the allegations. What were the grounds on which the ad agency judged the person to be worthy of the costly contract? Dentsu should assist in the investigation even if all it can disclose is information about the person’s business track record.

The influence of big money has grown over the years, not just in regard to the Olympics, but in the international sports community as a whole. Rumors of various forms of backdoor deals have haunted many powerful international sports organizations.

International consultants have been suspected to have played roles in some deals, but little is known about their actual operations.

The world sports community has been hit by a string of financial scandals in recent years. FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, has been engulfed by claims of widespread corruption, while money has emerged as a major factor behind alleged state-sponsored doping by dozens of top Russian athletes.

The leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations are expected to discuss the issue of corruption in sports in their meeting in Mie Prefecture on May 26-27.

As the country hosting this year’s G-7 summit, Japan should demonstrate a firm commitment to leading international efforts to eliminate the rot in sporting events and organizations and restore public trust in them.

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