Four Arrested Over Tokyo Olympics Bribery Allegations

Image Credit: iStock, Joel Papalini

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The Olympic torch was extinguished in Japan just over a year ago, but the scandals keep burning.

On Wednesday, a former member of the Tokyo Olympics organizing board was arrested, along with three executives from one of the game’s sponsors, on charges that bribes traded hands.

Heavy Medal

Shady deals at the Olympics are as old as the Ancient Greek games. In 338 BC, the boxer Eupolus of Thessaly was caught bribing opponents and, in 322 BC, so was pentathlete Callipus of Athens. Much more recently, a former governor of Rio de Janeiro admitted he helped pay $2 million in bribes to bring the modern Olympic Games to the Brazilian city in 2016.

The 2020 Tokyo Games (which took place in 2021 thanks to Covid) saw a tsunami of controversy. Yoshiro Mori, the head of the 2020 organizing committee, resigned after making derogatory remarks about women. The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, resigned two years earlier after French officials alleged he was connected to $2 million in suspect payments to secure the 2020 Games. Even the 2020 Tokyo Games’ official composer, Keigo Oyamada, had to step down after interviews resurfaced in which he boasted of bullying disabled schoolmates. There were also rumblings of financial impropriety directly connected to last year’s events, which finally spilled out into arrests on Wednesday:

  • Police arrested Haruyuki Takahashi, an advertising executive and former member of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics board, on suspicion of taking bribes from former executives of clothing manufacturer Aoki. Hironori Aoki, the company’s founder, was also arrested along with two other executives.
  • Takahashi is alleged to have received $380,000 from Aoki, which makes business suits and was a surprise sponsor chosen to dress Japan’s athletes. Tokyo District Public Prosecutors said Takahashi helped Aoki get “preferential treatment in the process of selecting sponsors.”

Double Trouble: The final price tag for the Tokyo Games ended up at $13 billion, nearly twice the initial estimate. According to Oxford University researchers, every Olympics since 1960 has gone over budget London earmarked $5 billion for 2012 and spent $18 billion, Sochi earmarked $10 billion for 2014 and spent $51 billion).

Foul Play: In 2020, the US Justice Department alleged three South American officials were bribed to vote for Qatar’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup. Soccer’s governing body will go ahead with the tournament anyway this November. As always, FIFA gets to determine who’s offside.