With less than 500 days until the Tokyo Olympics gets underway, Tsunekazu Takeda – president of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) – has announced he will step down from his position in June amid allegations of corruption over Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Games.
Takeda told reporters at a press conference Tuesday in Tokyo that he would also resign from his position as member of the International Olympic Committee.
The 71-year-old, ex-president of the Tokyo 2020 bid committee, was placed under formal investigation last December by French prosecutors over corruption allegations relating to the 2020 bidding process.
When asked whether his resignation had anything to do with the investigation, Takeda reiterated his innocence, saying: “I have not done anything unfair and I will work on to prove my innocence.”
In a statement to CNN, the IOC said it respected Takeda’s decision, adding: “Our respect of this decision is even greater because he took this step to protect the Olympic Movement while the presumption of innocence, on which the IOC insists, continues to prevail.”
French prosecutors are investigating two payments made to a Singapore-based company called “Black Tidings” in July and October 2013.
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Details of the payments – totaling 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million) – had emerged during a separate investigation into corruption and money laundering following revelations of widespread doping in Russian sport.
Takeda acknowledged earlier this year that a sum had been paid to Black Tidings for “fair compensation based on a consultant agreement.”
But he added at that time: “I have explained there were no improper action that can be recognized as bribing has taken place.”
In 2016, it was announced that the bidding and voting processes for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games would be investigated by French prosecutors as part of a wider probe into corruption in athletics.
The bidding and voting process for the 2016 Olympics concluded in 2009, with Rio seeing off competition from Madrid, while Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games ahead of Istanbul and Madrid.
Japanese authorities deny knowledge of any illicit payment and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said that it would abide by any investigation by French authorities.
The Tokyo 2020 Bidding Committee defended the funds, saying it paid “an amount” for professional services. It said the services included consultation work, planning of the bid, tutoring on presentation practice and service for information and media analysis.