Earlier this year, the Guardian’s Owen Gibson reported that investigators in France were looking into whether two high-ranking world track and field officials had funneled bribes from the cities that bid for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics to a group of International Olympic Committee members. That investigation took a new turn Wednesday, when Owen reported that French investigators have uncovered nearly $1.5 million in payments sent from Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bidding team to an account linked to Lamine Diack, the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations and a former International Olympic Committee member.
The Associated Press reports the amount to be $2 million. According to the AP, French officials have been told that the payments — marked “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game bid” — were sent in July and October 2013 from a Japanese bank to an account controlled by the Black Tidings company in Singapore. That account was overseen by a close friend of Papa Massata Diack, the former IAAF marketing consultant and Lamine Diack’s son.
Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics in September 2013, beating out Istanbul and Madrid.
Lamine Diack already had been arrested by French authorities in November over allegations that he accepted more than $1 million in bribes to cover up systemic doping by Russian track and field athletes. The native of Senegal was an IOC member from 1999 to 2013, stepping down soon after the Tokyo vote to become an honorary IOC member. An investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency into Diack’s involvement with Russian doping noted that he had switched his 2020 vote from Istanbul to Tokyo after a Japanese sponsor signed a deal with the IAAF.
The IOC instituted sweeping rule changes after the bidding scandals that tarnished the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In 1999, six IOC members were expelled and four resigned after it was determined that Salt Lake City Olympic organizers had given them more than $1 million in cash, gifts, trips and scholarships. Candidate cities are no longer allowed to have direct contact with IOC members, and the allegations against the Diack and his son would seem to suggest that some in the IOC are seeking to circumvent that rule.
In January, the Guardian reported that Papa Massata Diack had been involved in a 2008 scheme to deliver “parcels” between officials from Qatar — which at the time was bidding on the 2016 Olympics — and six influential IOC members. Lamine Diack was reported to be the middleman in that scheme.
Papa Massata Diack is thought by authorities to be in Senegal. According to the AP, he is being sought by Interpol.
Despite the reforms, the Olympic bidding process still is seen as ripe for corruption. In a 2004 investigation into the bidding process for the 2012 London Games, the BBC uncovered agents who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as middlemen between the contending host cities and IOC members. Questions also have been raised about the bidding for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
“The IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer will continue to be in contact with all interested parties to clarify any alleged improper conduct,” an IOC spokesman told Owen. “The IOC will not comment any further on the elements of the investigations at this stage.”