How deep is the darkness behind the Tokyo Games?

The corruption scandal surrounding last summer’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is widening. It is vital to clarify the entire picture of who was doing what in the shadow of the Games’ massive rights and interests.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has arrested Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive board member of the organizing committee of the Tokyo Games, and the president of a consulting firm who is a Takahashi’s acquaintance, on suspicion of taking bribes. It has also arrested two others — one of them a former director and senior managing executive officer of major publishing firm Kadokawa Corp., which was a sponsor of the Games — on suspicion of offering bribes.

Takahashi and the consulting firm president are suspected of receiving a total of ¥76 million in cash from the former Kadokawa director and another person over 10 occasions between July 2019 and January 2021. The money was allegedly a reward for giving the Kadokawa side special treatment in the selection of sponsors and other matters.

In April 2019, Kadokawa became an “official supporter” of the Games and sold official merchandise after receiving approval from the organizing committee to produce official guidebooks and other publications.

If Kadokawa attained a special status by providing funds to Takahashi and another person, that is utterly unacceptable.

Takahashi was arrested last month on suspicion of taking a total of ¥51 million in bribes from the side of Aoki Holdings Inc., a major business clothing retailer, which was an event sponsor. The most recent arrest was his second, and the total amount of bribes allegedly received exceeded ¥100 million.

Regarding the Aoki case, the special investigation squad indicted Takahashi on Sept. 6 on the charge of accepting bribes. It also indicted three others, including the former chairperson of Aoki, on the charge of making bribes.

However, Aoki and Kadokawa may not be the only companies involved in the incident.

On Sept. 5, prosecutors searched the offices of major advertising firm Daiko Advertising Inc. and other locations on suspicion of bribery in connection with the payment of a total of ¥14 million to Takahashi’s side, money allegedly paid for Takahashi to be a conduit for Daiko to take on the responsibility of recruiting sponsors for the organizing committee. The darkness surrounding the Olympic money is deep, and the bottom of the incident is yet to be seen.

Huge sums of money are believed to have become available for the Olympics after the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Sponsorship and other costs have soared since then, and in the case of the Tokyo Games, a record sum of more than ¥370 billion was collected from 68 domestic sponsor companies.

Many employees of Dentsu Inc., a major advertising agency, were seconded to the organizing committee. Takahashi served in executive posts at Dentsu, including as a senior managing director, and was known as a “leading figure in the sports business.” Has the network of personal contacts and influence he has built inside and outside the company become a hotbed of wrongdoing?

The key to the investigation from here on out is to unravel the collusion between Takahashi and Kadokawa. A thorough investigation is needed to determine whether there is also an opaque flow of money between Takahashi and Daiko and other companies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2022)