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Sapporo suspends Olympic bid events over Tokyo Games scandal

The Japanese city of Sapporo will stop promoting its 2030 Winter Olympics bid and hold a nationwide poll to gauge support after a corruption scandal over last year’s Tokyo Games, local officials have announced.

The moves come as prosecutors continue to investigate corruption including alleged bid-rigging at the Covid-postponed summer games in Tokyo.

“In light of the case related to Tokyo, it has been determined that we must design a clean Games,” Akifumi Kudo, a local official working on the municipal bid, told AFP.

Sapporo had been seen as the frontrunner to host the Winter Games for a second time, ahead of rivals Salt Lake City and Vancouver, but the corruption scandal has soured the bid.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said Tuesday the city needed time to draft strong anti-corruption measures to win public support, given the cloud over last year’s event.

“Rather than just running to the goal and closing our eyes to our surroundings, we have concluded that our priority should be to clear away any concerns or doubts the public has,” he told reporters.

“We will revisit and publish our operational plan for the Games, while confirming the public’s will,” he added, insisting Sapporo was still committed to its bid.

The city hopes to finalise a new plan for the Games in the spring, then conduct nationwide polling to gauge support, Kudo said.

Earlier this month, the governor of Hokkaido, where Sapporo is located, warned that the bid had become “difficult”.

“When you consider the series of problems related to the Tokyo Olympics, it will be difficult to build momentum with things as they are,” Naomichi Suzuki said.

Prosecutors have arrested former Tokyo Games executive Haruyuki Takahashi on suspicion of taking bribes in return for helping companies become official event sponsors.

The scandal has also engulfed the company that produced toy versions of the Games mascots, as well as a suit retailer, a publishing firm and major advertising agencies.

Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, who resigned as Tokyo 2020 president after making sexist comments, volunteered to be interviewed by prosecutors in September.

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone selecting a host for the 2030 Winter Games, citing concerns about the impact of climate change.

The host city was originally due to be chosen in autumn 2023.

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