Once again, the Olympic motto of faster, higher, stronger has been swapped out by money-grubbing international leaders for something much more to their liking.
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
Tsunekazu Takeda, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, has announced he will resign when his term ends in June amid a vote-buying scandal that French investigators believe helped Tokyo win next year’s Summer Olympic Games.
Takeda has acknowledged that he signed off on about $2 million in payments to a Singapore consulting company that is linked to Papa Massata Diack, the son of a powerful ex-International Olympic Committee member from Senegal who wielded strong influence over IOC voters in Africa.
As luck would have it, the payments were made just before Tokyo was selected in 2013 by the IOC, beating out Madrid and Istanbul. Such interesting timing.
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If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because back in 1998, accusations were made that various cities hoping to host future Olympic Games bribed numerous IOC members with all kinds of gifts, including cash, cosmetic surgery, trips to Disney World and, proving that no bad idea goes completely out of style, college scholarships for IOC members’ children.
Known as the Salt Lake City bid scandal, it probably could have been called by the name of any number of other winning Olympic cities, the corruption was that bad. Ten IOC members were forced to resign or were expelled, and another 10 were sanctioned by their peers.
Did that stop the cheating? Of course not. When cities want something as desperately as some want to host the Olympic Games, and when there still is a significant segment of the IOC that is comprised of free-wheeling, largely unregulated, old fat cats, well, here we are again.
It’s not just Tokyo. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio were filled with controversy and ended, eventually, with a fitting coda: the arrest of Brazilian Olympic Committee president and Rio organizing chief Carlos Nuzman in — guess what? — an IOC vote-buying scandal.
There are two ways to look at this: accept the corruption as part of the process, because, people being people, there will always be some level of cheating when the worldwide stakes are this high. Or, change the process completely and set up a rotation of cities far in advance, so there is no more competition to host the Games.
Even then, someone will likely figure out a way to game the system. As much as the authorities try to keep up, there will always be shenanigans (or worse) among these world players. New, good leaders emerge to try to clean things up, but a vast global endeavor built for decades on the self-interest of a powerful, faux-royal elite never disappears entirely.
So onto Tokyo we go, just 16 months away. The athletic story lines should be terrific, while IOC President Thomas Bach has described Tokyo as “the best prepared” Olympic host in history. It better be because cost overruns have soared, and Tokyo could spend up to $25 billion to put on the Games, nearly four times more than it said it would when it was selected.
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Beginning with alleged bribes and ending with bills that never seem to go away: sadly, that’s the Olympic way.