By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is looking to appoint a new member for Japan soon following the departure of Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) chief Tsunekazu Takeda from the global ruling body, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.
Takeda, who is under investigation in France for suspected corruption and will step down from his JOC role in June, ceased to be an IOC member on Tuesday after a decision by the IOC executive board. He had initially planned to leave that post in June as well.
Bach said the IOC Executive Board did not want any uncertainty regarding Takeda’s future with Tokyo hosting the Olympics next year.
“I think he (Takeda) also wanted to clear the way in the interest of Japan and also of the IOC,” Bach told a news conference, adding that the IOC would like to identify a successor as soon as possible.
“Japan not only being the host and a very strong member of the Olympic movement, we are interested in having as soon as possible a member in Japan.”
International gymnastics federation president Morinari Watanabe is an IOC member from Japan, though his membership is not individual but linked to the international federation presidency.
Takeda’s IOC departure means he also no longer heads the organisation’s marketing commission, a key body in securing deals with major sponsors. The 71-year-old joined the IOC in 2012.
French prosecutors have questioned Takeda in Paris and placed him under formal investigation in December for suspected corruption in Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.
Takeda, who was president of the 2020 bid committee, has been head of the JOC since 2001 and his resignation leaves a cloud hanging over both the national committee and organisers of the Tokyo Games.
French investigators have led a years-long probe into corruption in athletics and in early 2016 extended their inquiry into the bidding and voting processes for the hosting of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Multi-million dollar payments made by the Tokyo bid committee to a Singapore consulting company are being examined.
Takeda has said there was nothing improper about the contracts made between the committee and the consultancy and that they were for legitimate work.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)