Olympics

JOC head voices intention to resign amid bribery probe

Kyodo

The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee has expressed his intention to resign to a person close to him, sources with knowledge of the situation said Saturday, at a time when French authorities are looking into bribery allegations related to Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.

JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda, who has denied any wrongdoing, could announce his resignation on Tuesday when the Olympic committee holds a board meeting.

One of the sources quoted Takeda as saying he “wants to quit.”

His retirement without serving another term, coming with less than 500 days to go until the opening, may deal a blow to organizers.

The 71-year old has been under formal investigation by French prosecutors for suspected corruption in connection with the awarding of the Olympics.

He has served as JOC president since 2001 and is now in his 10th term. Takeda had been expected to be reappointed when the JOC holds executive elections in June and July.

But since the start of the French probe surfaced in January and amid growing concern at home and abroad over the negative potential impact on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Takeda’s departure has become increasingly “unavoidable,” according to the sources.

On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his private residence held a meeting with Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

During the meeting that lasted about an hour, Abe and Mori, a former prime minister, might have discussed the fate of Takeda.

Behind closed doors, the International Olympic Committee has been calling on the JOC to resolve the situation by the end of March, according to the sources.

The IOC has been concerned about the risk of tarnishing the image of the Olympics, they said.

“In ordinary circumstances, in light of the impact on the public, (the JOC) will try to settle the issue beforehand,” an official said, referring to a series of important events in Japan ahead of the enthronement of the new emperor on May 1.

But some officials around him have suggested that Takeda continue until his current term expires in June. A senior JOC official said, “Quitting now, (before his term ends,) would look as if he has admitted to the allegations.”

French investigators suspect that part of 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million) paid by the Tokyo Games’ bid committee to Singaporean consultancy firm Black Tidings in 2013 went to Papa Massata Diack, a Senegalese man whose father was a powerful member of the IOC at the time.

Takeda, also an IOC member, has said the payment to the Singaporean firm was legitimate compensation based on a consultancy agreement and he will continue to cooperate with French prosecutors to clear himself.

In an interview with Kyodo News in January, Diack, who is wanted by French law enforcement authorities, denied there was any wrongdoing.

The son of former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations Lamine Diack said Tokyo’s “victory was very clear” over Istanbul when the final round of secret voting by the IOC was held in 2013 in Buenos Aires and it is nonsense to think that Japan had to pay money to secure votes.

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