Tsunekazu Takeda announced his resignation as president of the Japanese Olympic Committee at an executive board meeting on Tuesday.
The announcement was made following accusations that bribery was involved in Tokyo being chosen as the host city for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“I don’t believe I’ve done anything illegal or wrong,” Takeda said on Tuesday. “It’s regrettable that a shadow has been cast on the tournament because of me, but I also think it’s my duty to serve out the rest of my term as president.”
Takeda, 71, has served 10 terms as JOC president since assuming the position in 2001. He also intends to step down as head of the International Olympic Committee’s marketing commission.
Concerns were raised by several board members at the meeting about the timing of the announcement and the impact it might have, as the opening ceremony is less than 500 days away and Japan is spending more than $20 billion to organize the 2020 Games.
“I want to step aside to make room for the younger generation to step up and lead the way,” Takeda said on Tuesday. “In June, I will step down as the JOC president so that the tournament can be held in peace.”
Takeda has been under investigation by French authorities since news emerged that he signed off on payments to a Singaporean consulting company leading up to the IOC vote in September 2013 for Tokyo to host the games over Madrid and Istanbul.
In 2013, a $2 million payment was made to Black Tidings, a consultancy headed by Tan Tong Han who is known to be close to Papa Massata Diack, a son of a once-powerful member of the IOC, Lamine Diack. Authorities suspected the money was used to buy votes for Tokyo to host the Olympics.
The IOC’s ethics commission, which has yet to comment on Tuesday’s announcement, opened a file on Takeda following the bribery allegations. Takeda confirmed at a news conference in January that he had been questioned and placed under formal investigation by French investigators in Paris in December.
He again denied any wrongdoing on Tuesday.
Yasuhiro Yamashita and Kozo Tashima, both of whom currently serve as JOC executive board members, have been touted by the media as possible replacements for Takeda. Yamashita is chairman of the JOC Sports Committee and won a gold medal in judo at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Tashima is president of the Japan Football Association.