Tokyo Games on Trial: Can the Olympics Recover from Bribery Scandal?

The former chief executive of Japanese advertising powerhouse Dentsu has been accused of accepting around 198 million yen ($1.4 million) in bribes in exchange for sponsorships for the 2021 Tokyo Games

by Sededin Dedovic
Tokyo Games on Trial: Can the Olympics Recover from Bribery Scandal?
© Steph Chambers / Getty Images

The shadow of corruption continues to hang over the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, with former Organizing Committee member Harayuki Takahashi pleading not guilty to bribery charges at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday (14 December).

Takahashi, a former executive at advertising giant Dentsu, faces allegations that he accepted about 198 million yen ($1.4 million) in bribes in exchange for securing sponsorships for the Games. He was arrested more than a year ago, and the duration of the trial remains unclear, and the defense will present its evidence early next year.

"I maintain that he is innocent of all counts," Takahashi told the court, setting the stage for a potentially long and convoluted legal battle.

Piece of the puzzle

The scandal surrounding Takahashi and Dentsu is only one part of a larger puzzle.

Reports of corruption and bid-rigging plagued the Tokyo Games back in 2013, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Tokyo as the host city. French investigators have investigated allegations that some IOC members accepted bribes to vote in Tokyo's favor.

This stain on the legacy of the Games had a devastating effect on Sapporo's hopes of hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. In October, Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and Japanese Olympic Committee President Yashuhiro Yamashita announced they were withdrawing their candidacy, citing a lack of public support.

The erosion of confidence caused by the Tokyo 2021 scandals was a major factor in the decision. The Takahashi case is not just a legal issue; it represents a deeper issue of integrity and transparency within the Olympic movement.

The legacy of the Tokyo Games is now tarnished by allegations of corruption and backroom deals. Restoring public trust will require a thorough investigation and, if necessary, strict action against those responsible. Harayuki Takahashi's trial will be closely watched both in Japan and internationally.

The Tokyo Games' legacy stands tarnished, but Takahashi's trial offers a chance for redemption and a path towards a more ethical future for the Olympics. Japan as a country needs to resolve this case and regain its lost reputation, although it is still too early to say because no one is guilty until proven guilty.