National

Head of Japan Olympic Committee defends payment to consulting firm

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Payments made by the Tokyo Olympic bid team to a consulting firm in Singapore immediately before and after the capital’s victory in September 2013 were clean and legitimate, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said again Monday.

Political pressure, however, is mounting on the JOC and the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to scrutinize the payments — the latest in a litany of missteps and scandals marring Tokyo’s credibility to host the international sports spectacle.

Opposition lawmaker Yuichiro Tamaki of the Democratic Party urged Abe to establish an independent committee to investigate the matter.

Tamaki said any indication that Tokyo may have bribed its way into landing the 2020 Summer Olympics is an “extremely serious” allegation that could cause damage to Japan’s international reputation.

Abe responded by emphasizing the government’s vows to cooperate with French law enforcement authorities in investigating the matter.

During the Lower House Budget Committee meeting Monday, JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda, who headed the Tokyo bid team in 2013, asserted that the transactions worth 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million) — made between his team and the consulting firm Black Tidings in the months immediately before and after Tokyo’s victory — involved “legitimate procedures” every step of the way.

The payments were properly declared by the bid committee, audited by an external organization and reported to the International Olympic Committee, Takeda said.

“Internationally speaking, hiring a consulting firm while bidding for the Olympics is standard practice. It’s even said you can’t win the bid without the contract of a global consulting company,” Takeda said.

He also insisted that his team had no inkling at the time that Black Tidings, which he said was recommended by advertising giant Dentsu Inc., had a link with a son of disgraced former world athletics chief Lamine Diack, who is under investigation in France for alleged corruption.

Takeda said Dentsu assured him of the firm’s provenance in offering consulting and marketing services in bidding efforts involving multiple international sports events in the past.

“There is no way we could’ve known the firm had a relationship with” Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, Takeda said.

A former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) marketing consultant, Papa Massata is wanted in France on charges including bribery, money laundering and corruption, and reportedly lives in his native Senegal — outside the jurisdiction of French magistrates.

The DP’s Tamaki cited growing media reports portraying Black Tidings — which a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation has found was used to transfer funds in the cover-up of a Russian doping case — as a “paper company,” with its office nothing more than what appears to be a tiny apartment.

In response, Takeda said he is unaware whether Black Tidings is really a paper company but added it’s not uncommon for consulting firms like this to have a small office because they are often managed privately and need to be flexible due to frequent business trips overseas.

Meanwhile, in an interview conducted in Dakar on Saturday, Papa Massata denied allegations that he received money from the Tokyo Olympic bid team through the Singapore bank account.

“I haven’t got any money,” Papa Massata said. “I’ve been in this sports business for 25 years. I know the rules.”