Osaka’s Olympics bid outlays probed

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

As the bribery scandal smolders around the International Olympic Committee, the heat is increasing for Osaka Olympic officials over allocations of city funds to various Games-related functions, including meetings with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and payments to intermediaries for Osaka and various Japan Olympic Committee and IOC officials.

The Osaka Needs No Olympics Union, a group of about 300 citizens against the city’s bid for the 2008 Games, said Wednesday it will formally question the city about how much it spent on food, gifts and entertainment when Samaranch met with Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura in May at Kansai International Airport.

The group will also request similar information about meetings between Samaranch and Isomura in Nagano last February, and again at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July. “We will ask how much the city spent and what exactly it spent the money on, as well as whether any gifts were exchanged,” said Tatsuya Kimura, a local lawyer who heads the union. He said questions would be submitted by the end of January, because time is needed to prepare the exact wording.

Kimura added that he may ask for more information about payments to two men hired to promote Osaka among JOC and IOC officials. Receipts issued by the city to Seiko Yasuda and Akira Kobayashi in April 1997 were recently obtained by Mihariban, a local public watchdog group. They show that payment was made. But the amounts and descriptions of the outlays are blacked out.

Yasuda was hired for his international contacts and is said to be on good terms with many IOC members, including Samaranch. He was involved in organizing the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. More recently, he helped Hiroshima win the 1994 Asian Games bid and Fukuoka in winning the 1995 Universiad Games.

Kobayashi works for the Japan Amateur Athletic Federation. Both were hired by Osaka as Olympic advisers in 1996. Kenichi Niinobe, an Osaka Olympic official, said Yasuda and Kobayashi perform a variety of advisory services.

Citing privacy laws, Niinobe said he could not reveal how much was paid out. Kobayashi claimed that his work involved introducing Osaka officials to JOC officials, and that he is hired on an ad hoc basis from year to year.

He claimed that he played no role in introducing Osaka officials to the IOC or to Samaranch and has almost no foreign contacts in the IOC.

Yasuda could not be reached for comment.