Fri, Jun 28, 2019 - Page 16 News List

JOC gets new head amid Tokyo Games corruption scandal


A former gold medalist was yesterday elected to lead the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), which has been mired in a scandal that forced its former president to step aside due to an alleged vote-buying scheme to land next year’s Tokyo Games.

Yasuhiro Yamashita was chosen to take over for Tsunekazu Takeda, who earlier this year announced that he would step down at the end of his term. He also resigned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he was the head of the powerful marketing commission.

Takeda, who led the JOC for almost two decades, has denied the corruption allegations that are being pursued by French investigators.

Yamashita won gold in judo at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and is one of Japan’s most famous athletes. He is likely to be elevated to an IOC membership with the Tokyo Games opening in 13 months.

He is also president of the All Japan Judo Federation.

The national body made the announcement at its new headquarters, a US$150 million facility built across from Tokyo’s New National Stadium, which is still under construction.

Yamashita takes over as French authorities are set to try Lamine Diack and one of his sons — Papa Massata Diack — on corruption charges connected with the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and next year’s Tokyo Games.

Lamine Diack was a powerful IOC member and allegedly received payments to sway the body’s votes.

The scandal is a black eye for next year’s Olympics, although they still seem to have widespread public support. Ticket demand in Japan is unprecedented, and Tokyo organizers have raised more than US$3 billion in local sponsorship revenue — about three times as much as any previous games.

Much of that revenue has been driven by giant Japanese advertising and marketing agency Dentsu, which is the exclusive marketing agency for the Tokyo Olympics and has long-standing commercial links to both Diacks.

French investigators have not suggested that Dentsu is a target of their probe.

Takeda was highly visible just a few months ago when he stood alongside IOC president Thomas Bach, exchanging small talk as Bach called the Tokyo Olympics the “best prepared” in history.

Takeda has acknowledged that he signed off on about US$2 million in payments to a Singapore consulting company, which is believed to have been a conduit to the Diacks.

Takeka, who has been largely portrayed as the fall guy, said that he was not part of the decisionmaking process and had no reason to question signing a “regular commercial contract.”

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