TOKYO: Tsunekazu Takeda is stepping down as the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee amid a vote-buying scandal that French investigators suspect helped Tokyo land next year’s Olympics.
Takeda announced Tuesday at the committee’s executive board meeting that he will resign when his term ends in June, and he again denied corruption allegations against him. The 71-year-old Takeda is also a powerful International Olympic Committee member and the head of its marketing commission. When he resigns, he will lose the IOC membership which is tied to his JOC presidency.
The scandal, which French authorities have been investigating for several years, has cast a long shadow over the Tokyo Olympics and underlines flawed efforts by the IOC to clean up its bidding process. Japan is spending at least $20 billion to organize the games, which open on July 24, 2020. “I have not done anything wrong,” he said. “I will continue to do my best to clear my name.”
He said it was his own decision, although several months ago he denied he intended to step aside. But pressure has mounted with the games getting closer and the IOC wanting to distance itself from another scandal. “I am sorry I have upset the society ahead of the Tokyo Olympics,” he said, speaking to about 100 reporters in the JOC’s small boardroom. “I feel bad about that.”
He said his decision was based on getting “a younger generation” to lead the Japanese Olympic body . The organization of the last Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was chaotic and ended eventually with the arrest of organizing committee president — and Brazilian Olympic Committee president – Carlos Nuzman in a similar vote-buying scandal.