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Olympics: Takeda replaced by Yamashita as JOC chief amid scandal

  • June 27, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 7:22 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda officially stepped down from his post Thursday amid an ongoing bribery investigation, and 1984 Olympic judo gold medalist Yasuhiro Yamashita was named his immediate successor.


The inconveniently-timed power transfer took place at an extraordinary meeting of the JOC’s board of directors in Tokyo as the Japanese capital readies to host the 2020 Summer Games in a little over a year’s time.


Takeda — the JOC’s longest-serving president — was expected to be re-elected when his 10th term ended this month, but an ongoing investigation in France and its blowback at home led to the 71-year-old’s resignation.


“I am very happy that I was able to work and share the importance of the Olympic movement with so many people,” Takeda said. “(Retiring) was my own idea, so I don’t have any regrets. (In the future) if there’s anything I can do I want to cooperate.”


French prosecutors allege a consultancy fee paid in 2013 by Tokyo’s bid committee, of which Takeda was president at the time, was used as a bribe to win the 2020 Games.


The JOC is hoping to rebuild its tarnished reputation and limit any pre-games fallout related to the investigation. It is hoped Yamashita’s stature and popularity throughout the country due to his time as an elite judoka and national team coach will aid the effort.


“I fully realize the weight of the responsibilities taking the post of president involves with just over a year until our country hosts the Olympics and Paralympics,” Yamashita said. “I have to lead us in a united effort for the tournament to be a success.”


During his professional career, Yamashita won nine straight national championships from 1977 to 1985 and claimed four world titles between 1979 and 1983. He received the People’s Honor Award after bringing home the open-weight category gold medal from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.


After retiring in 1985 with 203 consecutive wins, Yamashita went on to coach Olympic and world champions on the men’s national team such as the three Nakamura brothers — Yoshio, Yukimasa and Kenzo — and Kosei Inoue. Since 2017, the 62-year-old has been the president of the All Japan Judo Federation and technical director at the JOC.


Takeda, who has denied the allegations against him, is currently being investigated over some $2 million in payments made to the now-defunct Singapore-based consultancy Black Tidings.


Some of that money is thought to have wound up in the hands of Papa Massata Diack, the son of Senegalese businessman and disgraced former International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack, who was a powerful member of the International Olympic Committee at the time of Tokyo’s bid.


Takeda is a retired equestrian athlete who competed in the Olympics in the 1970s, and was president of the Tokyo 2020 bid committee from 2011 to 2014. He also resigned as a member of the IOC, with which he had served since 2012.

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