There’s yet another indictment against an executive of last year’s Tokyo Olympics in the Japanese bribery scandal that may already be eroding support for Salt Lake City’s only remaining rival in the race to host the 2030 Winter Games.
Sapporo’s Winter Games bid “is caught in a blizzard,” The Japan News reported last week amid the latest allegations that the executive, Haruyuki Takahashi, accepted money from companies seeking to become sponsors or marketing agents for the 2020 Summer Games that were delayed a year due to COVID-19.
He was indicted for a fourth time on Wednesday, Kyodo News reported, this time in connection with payments allegedly made by an advertising agency and the company that produced stuffed toys based on the Tokyo Olympics’ Pokemon-style mascots. Takahashi has denied the allegations.
The amount of money involved in the bribery scandal now adds up to around $1.4 million, the Japanese news agency said. The allegations, which first surfaced in August, have been seen as a setback to Sapporo’s efforts to build backing for its Winter Games bid.
“The Sapporo municipal government, whose top priority regarding the bid is to increase the support of its citizens, has been drenched in ice water,” The Japan News stated, citing surveys that show only around half of the city’s residents support the bid.
“The image of the Olympics and Paralympics was seriously damaged by the corruption scandal. It is quite difficult to boost momentum for the bid,” Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita is quoted as saying by the daily English-language newspaper published by Japan’s leading national newspaper.
In contrast, a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll last summer found that nearly 80% of Utahns want to host another Olympics. Both Sapporo and Salt Lake City have hosted previous Winter Games, Sapporo in 1972 and Salt Lake City in 2002.
Support for Sapporo’s bid could also be affected by an inflation-driven increase in the proposed budget for a 2030 Winter Games. The more than $100 million added to what have already been called “huge costs” includes an even bigger subsidy from Sapporo taxpayers.
Leaders of the International Olympic Committee could decide as soon as next month whether to advance Sapporo or Salt Lake City — or, possibly, both cities — to the contract negotiations stage of the new, less formal bid process.
A final vote on the 2030 host was postponed from next May until sometime in the fall of 2023, but the IOC’s Future Host Commission that’s quietly been evaluating the bid cities is still set to meet this month to come up with recommendations.
Sapporo is largely viewed as the frontrunner for 2030 now that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has stated a preference that Salt Lake City wait for the 2034 Winter Games due to the feared financial impact of hosting too soon after the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Another contender for 2030, Vancouver, Canada, is out of the running following a recent decision by British Columbia officials not to support the first-ever indigenous-led bid because of the “extraordinary expense” of hosting another Olympics. The 2010 Winter Games were in Vancouver.