Sapporo halts Olympic bidding activities after Tokyo scandals

The city of Sapporo has temporarily suspended its bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, arguing that it must first restore society’s trust that it lost due to corruption scandals surrounding the Tokyo Olympics.

The city of Sapporo and the Japanese Olympic Committee held a press conference in Tokyo on December 20, saying they were considering the city’s bid process.

Katsuhiro Akimoto, the mayor of Sapporo, said, “Don’t ignore your appearance and run around blindly.

Allegations of bribery and bid-rigging involving the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee triggered the decision to change course in Sapporo, Akimoto said.

The city said in early fiscal 2023 it would recreate the general outline of how it will operate the Sapporo Olympics and Paralympics with an emphasis on transparency and integrity.

The mayor also said the city’s direction was influenced by the announcement on December 6 that the International Olympic Committee would indefinitely postpone a final decision on the selection of the 2030 host city.

After the IOC’s announcement, the city of Sapporo and the JOC discussed what they needed to do to gain the public’s understanding of the city’s candidacy.

They concluded that one of the requirements was to “change the way all kinds of tasks are focused on one particular agency.”

Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, is suspected of accepting bribes from companies later named as sponsors of sports festivals.

Takahashi is a former executive of Japan’s largest advertising agency, Dentsu, who wielded tremendous power in terms of operations, including the selection of sponsors for the Tokyo Olympics.

Akimoto said the Sapporo Olympics organizers have no intention of subcontracting the work to Dentsu or any other agency. They will also consider the composition of the Organizing Committee.

The revised general outline will reflect those changes, officials said.

Akimoto also said the city and the JOC will conduct another survey on public opinion about holding the Winter Olympics in Sapporo based on the new guidelines.

A similar survey was conducted in March of this year, targeting residents of Hokkaido, including Sapporo.

About 52% of respondents supported the city’s proposal and about 38% opposed it.

But since March, opinions have changed, given the bribery and corruption scandal surrounding the Tokyo Olympics.

It is said that some members of the Sapporo City Assembly say, “Having an event alone will increase the momentum for candidacy.”

Akimoto initially opposed conducting a separate investigation.

However, he changed his position and said, “I would like everyone to participate in future investigations.”

(This article was written by Osamu Hiura and Kaho Matsuda.)

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