News 2nd April 2020

Tokyo 2020 Bid official gave gifts to former IAAF President

Haruyuki Takahashi was paid US$8.2 million by the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee to arrange sponsorship deals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but also to lobby International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to support its bid, reports Reuters. The former Dentsu executive told the news agency that he gave gifts such as digital cameras and a Seiko watch to Lamine Diack, former President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF – now World Athletics). 

The Bid Committee’s banking records reportedly show that it paid $46,500 to the watch manufacturing arm of Seiko. A senior official at the Bid Committee told Reuters that watches were handed out as part of Tokyo’s bid to secure the Olympics.

‘The Olympic parties or their representatives shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit, accept or offer any form of remuneration or commission, nor any concealed benefit or service of any nature, connected with the organisation of the Olympic Games’, reads the IOC Code of Ethics in force at the time. ‘Only gifts of nominal value, in accordance with prevailing local customs, may be given or accepted by the Olympic parties, as a mark of respect or friendship. Any other gift must be passed on to the organisation of which the beneficiary is a member’. The Code of Ethics doesn’t define ‘nominal value’.

Takahashi confirmed the receipt of $8.2 million to Reuters, but did not explain how it was spent. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee told the news agency that the payment to Takahashi was legitimate for the services he provided. 

The Bid Committee also reportedly paid $1.3 million to Jigoro Kano Memorial International Sport Institute, a non-profit organisation run by Yoshiro Mori, a former Prime Minister and head of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. The Institute run by Mori told Reuters that it was paid to analyse information.

French prosecutors have been investigating the role of Tsunekazu Takeda, who headed Tokyo’s bid committee, for authorising payments to Black Tidings, a company they suspect of acting as an intermediary to broker payments to secure votes for the hosting of sporting events. In 2016, after an inquiry lasting four months, the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) cleared officials of any wrongdoing in connection to a US$2.05 payment to the Singapore-based company for ‘consultancy services’ during Tokyo’s bid. Takeda also denied any deliberate wrongdoing, telling Reuters that he undertood the payments to be connected to legitimate services.

In August last year, French prosecutors began investigating if Athletics Management & Services (AMS), a marketing partner of Dentsu, played a role in the alleged embezzlement of sponsorship revenue from deals agreed with the IAAF. Dentsu acquired most of the IAAF’s global rights in 2001 following the bankruptcy of International Sports and Leisure (ISL). 

It is understood that one of the major reasons that the Swiss sports marketing company went bankrupt was because of ‘commission’ paid to FIFA executives in the 1990s in order to secure lucrative TV contracts. It is also understood that AMS was formed by ISL employees following the collapse of the company. Like AMS, ISL was also based in Lucerne.

In 2014, a year before he his arrest, Diack extended the IAAF’s marketing contract with Dentsu until 2029. In July 2015, the IOC awarded the exclusive broadcast rights in 22 Asian countries to Dentsu, covering both Summer and Winter Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024.

Takahashi told Reuters he was appointed by Takeda because of the connections he had built to Lamine Diack and his son, an IAAF marketing consultant, through his role with Dentsu. He denied paying money to anybody, arguing that the $8.2 million was renumeration for his role.

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