The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) should replace outgoing President Tsunekazu Takeda with someone who can minimize the impact of alleged corruption involving Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics on the upcoming games.
Takeda announced his intention to step down as JOC president after his current term ends in June this year. The move comes as his activities overseas have been adversely affected by French law enforcers’ investigation into the alleged corruption scandal.
It is only natural that he will step down since he cannot fulfill his duty as head of an organization that supervises sports organizations in Japan.
After his announcement, Takeda said he will continue to reassert his innocence. “I wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing. I’m determined to prove this,” he told a news conference. If so, he should have accepted questions at a news conference this past January — after the French law enforcement authority’s investigation into the matter shifted into high gear — to provide a thorough explanation.
Instead, the mere seven-minute news conference in which the JOC chief unilaterally asserted his legitimacy ended up deepening suspicions. From now on, Takeda should proactively cooperate in the investigation to get to the bottom of the case, which will help improve the image of the Tokyo Games.
Irresponsible moves leading up to Takeda’s announcement of his intention to step down highlight the JOC’s lack of governance.
The JOC attempted to allow an exception to its internal rules stipulating that JOC executives must be younger than 70 when appointed on the assumption that Takeda would stay on until the 2020 games.
The concentration of authority on certain individuals over a long period could lead to corruption of any organization. The JOC has not shown any enthusiasm about learning lessons from a series of wrongdoing involving the sports community last year.
At a board meeting on March 19, some attendees even expressed hope that Takeda will stay on. Their lack of a sense of crisis is outrageous.
The new JOC leadership that will be launched this coming summer should discipline itself and reform the JOC’s organization.
Regarding the extension of the mandatory retirement age of executives, Japan Sports Agency chief Daichi Suzuki said, “There should be some restrictions such as the number of terms executives can serve and their mandatory retirement age.”
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Masahiko Shibayama also underscored the importance of generational changes within the organization.
If the national government’s views were to be reflected in the appointments of executives at the JOC, a private organization, it could constitute political intervention. Yet the JOC’s lack of self-discipline has allowed room for government officials to make such remarks that could be interpreted as intervention.
The JOC, which was a committee within the Japan Sport Association, became independent after Japan and other Western countries boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest over the then Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Since the JOC was under the control of the Japan Sport Association, the organization had no choice but to boycott the Moscow Games because it was unable to defy the intentions of the central government that allocated funds for the training of athletes.
Unless the JOC learns from its experience of having been at the mercy of political motivation, the future of Japan’s sports world would be extremely pessimistic.