Dthe Olympic Games in Tokyo have been over for more than a year, but the scandals don’t stop. On Wednesday, Tokyo prosecutors arrested Haruyuki Takahashi, a former director of the games organizing committee, which is in the process of being dissolved. 78-year-old Takahashi is one of the most connected men in Japanese sports marketing. He is suspected of accepting a 51 million yen ($400 million) bribe from one of the local sponsors, clothing retailer Aoki. The company’s founder and former chairman, Hironori Aoki, was also arrested, along with his younger brother and a manager.
Takahashi and Aoki deny the allegations. But the incident casts a shadow over the Japanese city of Sapporo’s bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics. Yuriko Koikesaid after the arrest became known: “I am very disappointed.”
Sponsors are very important for the Olympics
Aoki sells inexpensive business suits. The company became one of the local sponsors of the Games in October 2018 and was awarded the right to advertise with the Games logo. The company has sold more than 30,000 suits with the Olympic emblem. Aoki also provided clothing for the Japanese athletes.
A year before the sponsorship deal, a company founded by Takahashi had signed a consulting deal with Aoki worth around 1 million yen a month. The prosecution suspects that Takahashi, in return, gave the suit manufacturer advantages in the selection of sponsors. According to media reports from the public prosecutor’s office, the arrested Aoki is said to have had “high hopes for Takahashi’s power”.
Takahashi used to be a senior executive at the powerful advertising agency Dentsu, which recruited local sponsors for the organizing committee. Dentsu collected the extraordinarily high sum of money equivalent to around three billion euros. That’s almost a third of the cost of the games, which is around ten billion euros. Japanese taxpayers paid most of the cost of the 2021 games, which were held without spectators during the Covid pandemic. The public prosecutor’s office had already searched the sports manager’s house and the business premises of Aoki and Dentsu in July.
The current case is not the only bribery scandal surrounding the games. As early as 2016, French prosecutors had launched an investigation into suspected bribery payments before the games were awarded to Tokyo. The chairman of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, therefore resigned in 2019. Other scandals have centered around copied logos, drastically increasing costs and resignations over misogynistic comments.