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Tokyo Olympics: Japan arrested on suspicion of bribery

TOKYO –

A former Tokyo Olympic organizing committee member and three people from a clothing company that are surprise sponsors of the 2020 Olympics were arrested on suspicion of bribery on Wednesday.

Haruyuki Takahashi, the former CEO of advertising agency Dentsu, is suspected of accepting bribes from the former director of Aoki Holdings Inc. and two employees of the company, the prosecutor’s office said.

The company, which makes affordable workwear, is an unexpected choice for the Japanese Olympic team, as other countries have top fashion brands designing athletes’ outfits. Aoki is associated with the Japanese so-called “recruitment suits” that young graduates wear for their first job and job interviews.

The bribery case is believed to be related to the sponsorship of the Olympics and Olympic-related products. Although corruption at the highest levels of Olympic officials has long been rumored, the arrest comes as a blow to Japan’s Olympic ambitions.

Takahashi is said to have invested US$3 billion in local sponsorships for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan is also pursuing the 2030 Winter Olympics for Sapporo.

Aoki said it was still looking into the matter and was not immediately available for comment. The Japanese Olympic Committee was not immediately available for comment.

Japanese media reported that Takahashi has denied wrongdoing, insisting that he was paid for consulting services.

Tokyo has hosted the Tokyo Olympics to much fanfare, as well as criticism, in the summer of 2021. The event has been postponed for a year and has not been held for public ticketing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That was disappointing, as the Games are said to have boosted tourism revenue and put the spotlight on Japan’s power in a similar way to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The official price for the most recent Tokyo Olympics was US$13 billion, mostly public money. This is more than double the original estimate when the International Olympic Committee awarded Tokyo the Games, but less than the $25 billion some had predicted.

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