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Corruption endemic to Olymics process

January 12, 2018

 VOX POPULI: Corruption seems to be endemic to the Olympic process




Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.

The job of Olympic consultants is said to gather--and sell--accurate information concerning members of the International Olympic Committee to the cities bidding for the Olympic Games.

The process of information gathering is so thorough that the consultants even go so far as to mine each IOC member's personal data, such as whether the individual is happily married, how many children he/she has, if there is any topic he/she resents discussing, and so on.

In 1998, a bribery scandal surfaced in connection with Salt Lake City's candidature for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Many IOC members were forced to resign for accepting expensive gifts that ranged from cash to a scholarship for a member's son.

After this scandal, the IOC banned visits by its members to candidate cities, thereby blocking direct contact between the parties.

But ironically, this opened the doors wide to the Olympic consultancy business. "No successful bidding without consultants" became an axiom.

And now, with next year's Tokyo Olympics drawing near, another allegation of corruption has surfaced.

Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, has been under investigation by French judicial authorities. The allegation against the Japanese bidding committee is that payments it made to a Singaporean consultancy firm were meant as bribes for IOC members.

Takeda was questioned by prosecutors in Paris last month.

"Revenge is a dish best served cold" is a saying that originated in France, a nation that prides itself on its gourmet tradition. It means that anyone planning a revenge should be patient and plan thoroughly.

One fleeting suspicion that arose in my mind was that the French could be trying to get even with us Japanese for indicting Carlos Ghosn, a much-respected figure in France.

After all, there is the Japanese saying, "Edo no kataki wo Nagasaki de utsu," which may translate as "to take revenge on someone in an unlikely place."

But, no, matters are obviously much more complex than I had imagined for even a second.

In any case, just when Japan seemed to be getting ready for the big event next summer, we get hit with this disturbing development so early in the new year.

The Olympics are a truly tricky business.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 12

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.


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