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Japan makes arrests on bribery suspicions in Tokyo Olympics

Haruyuki Takahashi, executive board member of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games arrives at Tokyo 2020 Executive Board Meeting in Tokyo on March 30, 2020.Issei Kato/Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — A former Tokyo Olympic organizing committee board member and three people from a clothing company that was a surprise sponsor of the 2020 Games were arrested on bribery suspicions Wednesday.

Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive at advertising company Dentsu, is suspected of receiving bribes from the former head of Aoki Holdings Inc. and two company employees, the prosecutors’ office said.

The company that makes affordable business suits was a surprise pick to dress the Japanese Olympic team, when other nations had top fashion brands designing athletes' outfits. Aoki is linked with Japan’s so-called “recruit suits” that youngsters fresh out of school wear for job interviews and their first jobs.

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The bribery is believed to be linked to sponsorship of the Games and products related to the Olympics. Although corruption at top places among Olympic officials had long been rumored, the arrest comes as a blow to Japan’s Olympic ambitions.

Takahashi is credited with landing $3 billion in local sponsorships for the Tokyo Games. Japan also is pursuing the 2030 Winter Olympics for Sapporo.

Aoki said it was still looking into the matter and did not have immediate comment. The Japanese Olympic Committee was not immediately available for comment.

Japanese media reports said Takahashi denied wrongdoing, stressing he was paid for consulting services.

Tokyo played host to the Tokyo Games with much fanfare, as well as criticism, in summer 2021. The event was postponed for a year and held with no public ticket sales because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That came as a disappointment, as the Games were supposed to have drummed up tourism revenue, and put the spotlight on Japan’s prowess in a similar way as did the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The official price tag for the latest Tokyo Games was $13 billion, mostly public money. That was double the initial estimate when the International Olympic Committee awarded Tokyo the Games, but less than the $25 billion some had predicted.

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