Bad timing. Two days before celebrating the very symbolic date of one year after the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Saturday, July 23, a case of alleged corruption has just broken out in Japan. It concerns a member of the executive board of the former organizing committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
According to the Kyodo News agency, citing sources “close to the case”, the justice would investigate the payment of the sum of 45 million yen – about 326,000 dollars at the current rate – by a partner of Tokyo 2020 to a consulting firm owned by Haruyuki Takahashi (pictured above), a member of the executive board of the organizing committee.
The sponsor in question, Aoki Holdings Inc. became an official supporter of the Tokyo 2020 Games in October 2018, the third tier of the national marketing program. With a strong presence in Japan, the company founded in the late 1950s manufactures men’s suits.
As a partner of the Games, it has marketed a line of clothing bearing the Summer Games emblem. It would have sold more than 30,000 suits and jackets stamped Tokyo 2020 since the beginning of 2019. Beautiful business, therefore. Aoki had dressed the Tokyo 2020 delegation at the IOC session in September 2013 in Buenos Aires, during which the Japanese capital was designated host of the Summer Games in 2020.
Only trouble: the Japanese police would have discovered the existence of a contract between Aoki and the consulting firm headed by Haruyuki Takahashi. Its signature would date back to September 2017, before the entry of the brand in the marketing program of the Tokyo Games. It provided for the payment of a service for a value of one million yen per month, about 7,000 euros at current rates.
A conflict of interest? The Japanese prosecutors believe it. As part of their investigation, they questioned the former president and founder of Aoki Holdings, Hironori Aoki, who retired last month. When contacted by the Japanese media, the company’s management declined to comment on the matter.
Haruyuki Takahashi, for his part, denies any presumption of corruption. The 78-year-old Japanese executive does not dispute the existence of a contract between Aoki and his consulting firm. But he swears that it was not related to the Tokyo 2020 Games, but concerned a marketing strategy for the clothing brand at the national level.
According to Kyodo News, the very existence of a commercial contract between a partner of the Games and a member of the Tokyo 2020 executive board would constitute an act of corruption. The Olympic law adopted in Japan after the award to Tokyo of the Games in 2020 specifies that the members of the executive board and the officials of the organizing committee are considered as state officials. As such, they are forbidden to receive gifts, allowances or remunerations from companies related to the Games.
Former managing director of the giant Dentsu, the official advertising agency of Tokyo 2020, Haruyuki Takahashi has often been presented as one of the most influential members of the executive board of the organizing committee. He was one of the first to join it, as early as June 2014, just a few months after its creation.
His name has already been mentioned by the Japanese media in some not very transparent transactions concerning the Tokyo Games and the bidding campaign. In September 2020, Kyodo News revealed that the bid committee would have made a dozen transfers, for a total amount of 900 million yen (7.3 million euros), to a company headed by Haruyuki Takahashi.