This article appeared as a Japan Times online exclusive on Jan. 19, 2019.
With serious allegations of corruption and bribery linked to Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda, a prominent member of the global sports community issued a call for Japanese authorities to sever ties with him.
Ollan Cassell believes a leadership change is needed now instead of having a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“It seems to be it would be best for the Japanese to find a method to sit him aside rather than embarrass him in front of the Japanese people,” Cassell, who won a gold medal in the men’s 4×400-meter track relay at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, told The Japan Times on Friday.
On Jan. 11, multiple media outlets reported that French authorities were investigating Takeda for active corruption. It was reported that France’s National Financial Prosecutors office placed the JOC president under formal investigation on Dec. 10.
Though he has denied the allegations, the crisis appears to have altered Takeda’s normal routine, possibly for fear of being arrested in Europe.
It was reported that he wouldn’t attend the IOC’s marketing commission meeting this weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland. Takeda became head of the commission in 2014.
A Reuters report this week spelled out the seriousness of the ongoing investigation. “Under French law,” Reuters correspondent Karlos Grohmann wrote, “a formal investigation means there is ‘serious or consistent evidence’ implicating a suspect in a crime. It is one step closer to a trial, but such investigations can be dropped without going to court.”
Cassell, now 81, was a longtime executive director for USA Track and Field and also served as a vice president for the IAAF, the sports’ global governing body, before retiring. He drew parallels between the scandal-plagued 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and the ongoing Tokyo 2020 crisis.
“This situation seems similar to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic scandal when payments were made by those directly involved in real decision-making surrounding the games,” Cassell, who resides in Indiana, told this newspaper.