Japan pauses Olympic bid promotion amid corruption scandal
Officials have put the campaign on hold following a series of arrests
The promotion of Sapporo’s bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics will be paused by the city and the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) in the wake of Tokyo 2020 corruption scandals.
The Kyodo news agency initially made the claim that promotion would be paused “for a while” but gave no further information.
Later, however, Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto confirmed the news to a press conference in Tokyo jointly held with the JOC, saying “we must first dispel the public’s unease rather than rushing forward blindly without regard to appearances.”
The development comes amid a widening corruption scandal related to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics held last year.
Police in Japan have raided the offices of numerous advertising agencies in recent months as part of an investigation into bribes allegedly received by a former member of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic board, Haruyuki Takahashi.
Takahashi was arrested on suspicion of receiving money from Olympic sponsors, and several other arrests related to alleged bid-rigging have led Sapporo’s mayor to say that it might be difficult for his city to perform promotional activities under current circumstances.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to postpone its decision on who will host the Winter Olympics in 2030 earlier this month, while citing climate change concerns.
Sapporo and Salt Lake City in the US state of Utah are the only cities currently bidding to host the spectacle after others pulled out.
Sapporo originally hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and Salt Lake City 30 years later in 2002.
In June 2022, protesters gathered in Tokyo and Sapporo to voice their opposition to ambitions to host the 2030 edition of the competition.
The AP reported that 50 people gathered in each city and held “No Olympics” banners while attempting to argue their case with members of the public.
“The IOC is a bunch of thieves. Spend on welfare, not the Games,” one banner held up in the famous Shinjuku district in the country’s capital demanded.
There was similar widespread and persistent public opposition to hosting Tokyo 2020 in Japan which fizzled out due to few fans being allowed to attend events with the pandemic still in effect.
Tokyo taking on extra costs on and losing close to $1 billion in potential ticket sales led some to conclude that the IOC now owes Japan, which could swing in its favor when the decision is made on whether Sapporo should host the Winter Olympics.
In 2026, the Winter Olympics will be held by Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.