OPINION: Japan’s Olympic scandal fuels Vancouver’s 2030 bid


Opinion: With Salt Lake City and, now, Sapporo marred by corruption scandals, Vancouver could better serve the needs of the IOC if the bid is ready in time.

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For the second time in two months, a senior official of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games Organizing Committee has been arrested for accepting bribes of nearly $1 million.

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Haruyuki Takahashi’s latest arrest is on suspicion of receiving bribes from a Japanese publishing house that produced programs and books for the Tokyo Olympics. Two executives of publishing giant Kadokawa have also been arrested and charged.

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In August, 78-year-old Takahashi was released after being accused of taking bribes from the clothing manufacturer that outfitted Japan’s Olympic and Paralympic teams and held the license for other merchandise. Three of the company’s executives have also been charged.

The Tokyo Games were busy almost from the start, and long before they were postponed a year to 2021 due to COVID-19.

In 2016, French prosecutors launched a corruption investigation involving members of the Japanese Olympic Committee. Its president, Tsunekazu Takeda, was implicated and resigned in 2019.

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Last week, his successor, Yasuhiro Yamashita, expressed his “regret” over the latest charges, according to Japanese media.

He fears this will erode public support for Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games.

While no referendum has been held or planned, the city of Sapporo conducted online, mail and street polls in June. Depending on the polling method, the Japan Times reported results ranging from 52% to 65% in favor of holding the Games and 26 to 38% opposed.

As Japanese prosecutors continue to expand their investigation, a planned visit later this month to Lausanne by Yamashita and the mayor of Sapporo to meet with the International Olympic Committee has been delayed due to a ‘scheduling conflict’. .

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If all this hasn’t shaken the IOC’s confidence in awarding more Games to Japan, it should.

It should also serve as a reminder that the radically changed host city selection process was due to a corruption scandal linked to Salt Lake City’s successful bid in 2002. Not only was the selection process changed, but six IOC members were expelled. Two members of that city’s bid committee were eventually acquitted after the end of the Games.

For the 2030 Winter Olympics, only Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver are candidates. And against this backdrop of corruption, Vancouver’s attempted reconciliation, led by the Musqueams, Tsleil Waututh, Squamish and Líl̓wat First Nations, probably looks pretty good for the IOC.

It’s still unclear whether Vancouver’s $4 billion proposal will make it to the starting line, let alone finish first.

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But suddenly, last week, the IOC announced that its annual spring meeting and 2030 host city announcement, scheduled for Mumbai, had been postponed, giving Vancouver an additional four months to prepare its bid.

The IOC cited “ongoing internal disputes, governance shortcomings and ongoing lawsuits” within India’s Olympic body, which did not hold elections scheduled for December.

In mid-July, Indigenous leaders pleaded with Vancouver’s mayor and councilors to dismiss a scathing staff report calling for an end to the lawsuit.

The report warned that the December deadline to submit the proposal to the IOC was impossible. He said so little was known about the funding that staff could not even provide “an order of magnitude estimate of the financial implications of hosting the Games”.

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Other concerns included the lack of agreement on the governance structure or the operational plan for how decisions would be made if the IOC awarded the Games to Vancouver.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the majority of councilors rejected the staff report. But they face re-election on October 15 and there is still time for a new council to reverse that decision. Mayor Kennedy Stewart did not respond to a request for comment.

Either way, the proposal died without a funding commitment from the provincial government. This decision is not expected before the end of the fall and depends on the answers to the long list of questions that Minister of Sport Melanie Mark sent at the end of June to Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The Minister asked what financial commitment host First Nations were making, what contributions the IOC and the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees would make, and how these Games would fulfill the promise of being “self-funded”. Mark also requested an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of the Olympic Games.

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Some – but not all of this information – was provided before Mark’s August 15 deadline.

What’s received is being reviewed and assessed to determine if hosting the Olympics “aligns with provincial priorities for economic and tourism recovery, reconciliation, housing, transportation and the environment,” it said. a ministry spokesperson in an email this week.

Speaking on behalf of the bid feasibility team, Chris Dornan declined to comment on the corruption probe in Japan and what it might mean for Sapporo’s bid.

The team, he said, is focused on what is needed to finalize its proposal and continues to work with its partners to achieve this.

Without providing details, Dornan said the team had “extensive engagement with the community throughout the summer months, which also continues across the province.”

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While there has been significant engagement, it has not been evident in Vancouver where public attention remains focused on housing affordability, transportation issues, crime and public safety, according to a survey by the Mustel group published on Thursday.

While Olympic insiders might think the Japanese corruption probe presents Vancouver with an unforeseen opportunity, it also provides fuel for naysayers who question not just the value of hosting mega sporting events, but the organization. Olympic itself.

And, with a fast-changing economy with complicated and costly problems to solve, municipal and provincial politicians might agree that now is just not the time for fun and gambling.


  1. The dance took place as the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, the City of Vancouver, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee unveiled their hosting concept of the Games at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center in Whistler in June.

    Daphne Bramham: First Nations scramble to keep Vancouver on side of Indigenous-led 2030 Olympic bid

  2. The Olympic Cauldron at the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia

    BC 2030 Olympic bid still lacks provincial government support

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