Tokyo 2020 has no shortage of PR issues, but recent allegations have thrust the committee back into the spotlight.
French prosecutors allege that Tokyo paid roughly $2 million to an account associated with Papa Massata Diack, son of former president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, in relation to its bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The payment, sent from a Japanese bank, was marked “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game bid.” It was given to the Black Tidings Company in Singapore—which was held by Papa Massata Diack’s close friend. Papa Massata Diack is being sought by Interpol.
His father, Lamine Diack, was a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1999 to 2013. He was also an honorary IOC member in 2014 but resigned as IAAF president amid allegations that he had accepted more than $1.13 million in bribes to cover up Russian doping tests.
Though the Diacks have been under investigation for corruption for some time, The Guardian reported that the most recent allegations come as a heavy blow to the IOC:
But the latest revelations are perhaps the most troubling yet for the IOC and will send shockwaves through the Olympic movement at a time when its president, Thomas Bach, has repeatedly held it up as an example of probity to other troubled sporting organisations including Fifa and the IAAF.
The integrity of the IOC isn’t the only thing the recent accusations threaten, The Guardian reported:
The allegations come at a difficult time for the IOC, which is under pressure over this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics amid a host of practical and political issues and locked in an ongoing battle to persuade potential bidding cities that the Games remain a worthwhile prize.
The Japanese Olympic committee told The Guardian that its press team was unable to respond to the publication’s question about the alleged payment because the team was away on business.
The committee also denied having knowledge of what happened during the Olympics bidding period. A spokeswoman said:
The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has no means of knowing these allegations. We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid.
It is not the only organization to deny knowledge of the transaction.
Japanese marketing firm Dentsu is also being investigated for a potential role in the situation. In the last months of his presidency, Diack extended the firm’s sponsorship contract with the International Association of Athletics Federations to 2029.
A Dentsu spokesman told The Guardian that it had no knowledge of any payment from Black Tidings and that Tan was never employed as a consultant at the agency.
Japan Today reported that the country’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters during a news conference that he was unaware of the newspaper report.
“I am confident that our bid was conducted in a clean manner,” Suga said, adding that should Tokyo be approached by French authorities on the matter, it would cooperate.
An IOC spokesman told The Guardian that its chief ethics and compliance officer has been communicating with French magistrates and the organization is a civil party to the justice procedure, but refused to elaborate:
The IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer will continue to be in contact with all interested parties to clarify any alleged improper conduct. The IOC will not comment any further on the elements of the investigations at this stage.