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Editorial: Murky flow of Tokyo Olympic money must be exposed after executive's arrest

Haruyuki Takahashi, an executive board member of the now-dissolved Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has been arrested for allegedly accepting bribes.

    This means that suspicions of illegal money flows surrounding the "festival of peace" have grown stronger, and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation unit must conduct a thorough probe to expose the full picture.

    Takahashi allegedly took a total of 51 million yen (about $378,000) in cash from major business attire chain Aoki Holdings Inc. -- a Tokyo Games sponsor.

    The Tokyo Games committee executives and regular employees are considered public servants under Japanese law, and if they accept money or goods in relation to their duties, they can be charged with bribery.

    Three people connected with the retailer, including former chairperson Hironori Aoki, have also been arrested on suspicion of bribery.

    Takahashi was previously a senior managing director at advertising giant Dentsu Inc. As an influential person in the sports business world, Takahashi apparently had sway over the company even in retirement. These circumstances may have created a hotbed for illicit financial dealings.

    Dentsu was contracted to handle the practical side of selecting Tokyo Olympic sponsors, and sent many of its employees to work at the committee's departments doing advance screening of officially licensed products.

    There is suspicion that the Aoki side requested Takahashi to give the clothing firm favorable treatment and have it named a Tokyo Games sponsor. Takahashi is also said to have pushed the organizing committee to hasten the approval of officially licensed products sold by Aoki Holdings.

    The 51 million yen was transferred to a consulting firm headed by Takahashi. Before his arrest, Takahashi denied taking bribes and explained that they were "consulting fees unrelated to the Olympics."

    A separate money scandal has surfaced regarding the 250 million yen (roughly $1.85 million) paid by the Aoki side to a Dentsu subsidiary as "athlete training fees" when it sealed a Tokyo Games sponsor contract. Of that money, some 150 million yen (approx. $1.11 million) was transferred to Takahashi's consulting firm, and is believed to have been used to repay personal loans. Only a portion of the money is said to have been given to sports organizations.

    There are rising doubts that the Tokyo Games, which was funded by the state and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, was run fairly. The organizing committee is also responsible for getting to the bottom of the incident, and providing an explanation.

    What lies behind the incident is that the Olympics have become increasingly commercialized and bloated since the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The prioritization of exclusive benefits for certain parties has become baked into the system, thanks to the enormous sums thrown around to gain Olympic sponsor status or broadcasting rights.

    There are also rumors of money scandals in the Tokyo Olympic bid process. Now is the time to clear the murky flow of "Olympics money."

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