Dentsu faces more questions over Tokyo 2020 conflict of interest
Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant, is facing questions over a potential conflict of interest regarding its conduct in the run-up to Tokyo securing host city rights to the 2020 Olympic Games.
Tokyo was awarded the games ahead of Madrid and Istanbul in 2013, the same year Dentsu donated over $6 million to the city's successful bid campaign, Reuters has reported, claiming to have seen bank statements. It is also alleged that Dentsu lobbied members of the International Olympic Committee to support the Tokyo bid, while at the same time holding a contract with the IOC to market the games.
The $6.2-million donation, which had not been previously disclosed publicly, came to over 10 per cent of the funding received from sponsors.
It has also been reported that Dentsu endorsed the bid committee hiring Tan Tong Han, a Singaporean consultant who is currently under investigation for attempting to influence IOC members to vote in Tokyo as the host city.
Last month, Japanese news agency Kyodo News claimed that Tan’s consulting firm, Black Tidings, paid around $370,000 to Papa Massata Diack, the son of the former head of athletics’ international governing body.
These reports claimed that Black Tidings - now defunct - made multiple transfers to the younger Diack, whose father Lamine was president of the IAAF, now renamed World Athletics, until 2015, and was an IOC member in 2013 when Tokyo was awarded the games.
The younger Diack however told the Japanese news agency last month that those payments were not related to the Tokyo Olympics.
Last year, Tsunekazu Takeda, former head of the Tokyo bid committee, resigned as an IOC member, and from the Japanese Olympic Committee, after news came out that he had approved a payment of S$2.8 million ($2 million) to Black Tidings.
Takeda, despite resigning and admitting to the payments, denied he had done anything illegal, and insisted that the payment was a "legitimate consultant's fee."
The IOC’s rules for cities bidding to host games state that its top-tier advertising and marketing partners “shall refrain from supporting or promoting any of the cities, (to) preserve the integrity and neutrality” of the process.
Three people involved in the alleged lobbying have now told Reuters that, contrary to Dentsu’s original claim that it only provided informal advice to the Tokyo campaign, the assistance went beyond that, in the run up to the IOC vote which saw the Japanese city secure hosting status.
Kiyoshi Nakamura, a former senior Dentsu executive, told investigators from the Japanese Olympic Committee in 2016 that Dentsu was an IOC marketing partner when the bid was formally made, which would cement the conflict of interest allegations.
Dentsu has said in a statement regarding its payment to the Tokyo bidding team: “We provided a donation in response to a request for support from the bid committee, after an adequate internal corporate process.”
It added that its staff provided “advice and information to the bid committee”, but were not formal or full-time consultants, and that as such its conduct did not contravene IOC rules.
In terms of the alleged lobbying, the three aforementioned lobbyists told Reuters that they were in charge of securing support from two IOC members: Uruguay’s Julio Cesar Maglione, and the Ukrainian Sergey Bubka.
The IOC, meanwhile, told Reuters that the Japanese advertising agency was “contracted to deliver services which were not linked to the candidature of any city”, while officials from the Tokyo bid body have said that the relationship between that organisation and Dentsu was appropriate.
The JOC, which looked into whether Tokyo’s bid involved any corruption whatsoever, found no wrongdoing in its report, submitted in September 2016.