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Japan to set up sports corruption unit for Tokyo 2020 Olympics

September 2014

The Japanese government has announced plans to set up a special policing unit to monitor and investigate corruption threats to the nation’s sporting bodies.

Government officials say that multiple government agencies would co-operate with the special unit in order to fight sports corruption in Japan and potential threats from abroad ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The next games will be Japan’s fourth Olympic event, following on from: the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo; the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo; and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

Japan’s ruling party the Liberal Democratic Party stated that plans for the creation of the special unit had begun in December 2013.

The government plans to ask for international co-operation in fighting sports corruption, stating it had reviewed international legal systems regarding the matter. Concerns about sports corruption have grown in recent years, due to corruption in Sumo.

Japan’s ancient and revered sport of Sumo has fallen on hard times. Damaging scandals over the past five years have led to declining popularity and eroded the sport’s finances. Match fixing, betting, drug use, extortion, the brutal treatment of young wrestlers, and links with organised crime have all provoked public outcries.

Advertisers and sponsors have withdrawn their support as it has become clear that large numbers of Sumo wrestlers and others associated with the sport are involved in the corruption.

Sumo’s status as a cultural emblem of many historic Japanese traditions has become severely tarnished. Consequently, ticket sales for wrestling matches and TV viewership have declined, worsening the sport’s problems. Most worrying of all is the inability of the sport to put its house in order.

The government stated that the special unit would focus mainly on detection of match fixing, tampered sports performance, and money laundering through sports betting.

Corruption in Japan has increased since 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake and an accompanying Tsunami devastated coastal regions of North East Japan.

This record earthquake led to the nation’s most extensive reconstruction efforts since 1945.

The devastation has proved a bonanza for the Yakuza, Japan’s organised crime groups, who have strong links with the construction industry, partly through their control of the supply of labourers.

In 2011, Japan’s ranking out of 178 nations in Transparency International’s corruption perception index was 14 - just behind Germany. However, in 2013, Japan was 18th, behind Barbados and Hong Kong. 

Asia | Corruption

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