The National Today

Japan's Olympic Committee president under criminal investigation

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Tsunekazu Takeda, president of Japan Olympic Committee, under investigation by French authorities; revamp of Canada's Food Guide raises major issues about how proper nutrition gets defined.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Tsunekazu Takeda, head of Japan's Olympic Committee, at the international presentation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games bid in London in 2013. France's financial crimes office says the IOC member is being investigated for corruption. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • The head of Japan's Olympic Committee has been placed under formal criminal investigation by France over bribery allegations.
  • The revamp of Canada's Food Guide raises tricky issues about how proper nutrition gets defined.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.


Another black eye for the Olympics

The head of Japan's Olympic Committee has been placed under formal criminal investigation in France over allegations that he paid bribes to help Tokyo win the rights to host the 2020 Summer Games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, who competed in show jumping at the 1972 and '76 Games, has been president of his country's Olympic movement since 2001. He was "mis en examen" by a Paris judge — the first step towards a French prosecution — on Dec. 10, according to a report in today's Le Monde newspaper.

Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, at the 127th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Monaco in December 2014. He has denied allegations of bribery connected to the Tokyo Games bid. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

French authorities have been investigating more than $2 million US in payments that the Tokyo bid committee made to a Singaporean consultancy firm, both before and after the 2013 vote where the city beat out Madrid and Istanbul for the 2020 Olympics.

Black Tidings, the company in question, is associated with Papa Massata Diack, the son of the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lamine Diack.

The elder Diack is facing French charges — brought by the same Paris anti-corruption judge — of having taken millions in payments to cover up failed doping tests by Russian athletes, and having steered TV and sponsorship deals to his son and his associates.

The younger Diack is currently on Interpol's wanted list and remains holed up in his native Senegal, where the government has refused all extradition requests.

Papa Massata Diack speaks during a March 6, 2017, interview in Dakar in which he denied allegations of receiving money connected to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games bid. (Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

Takeda and a number of other people involved in the Tokyo bid voluntarily submitted to questioning by Japanese prosecutors in 2017, at the request of French authorities. They maintain that the Singapore payments were all above-board.

Japan's Olympic Committee appointed an independent panel to investigate the consulting contracts in 2016, and it came to the same conclusion.

At an appearance in Tokyo today, Takeda reiterated that no bribes were paid, but said he was sorry for the continuing bad publicity.

"I apologize for the huge worries that have been brought to the people of Japan, who have given so much support to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and in order to put every doubt to rest I intend to continue cooperating with investigations," he told reporters.

The 71-year-old also serves as the vice-chairman of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, and has long been a nationally known figure in Japan, being the great-grandson of the Emperor Meiji and second-cousin of the country's current ruler.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened its own ethics probe into the matter, but issued a statement today saying that Takeda "continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence."

The Tokyo Games have been operating under a cloud for the past few months as various levels of government bicker about the spiralling cost of staging the 2020 Olympics.

In October, Japan's national Board of Audits released a report suggesting that the true cost of hosting the competition will be in excess of $25 billion — more than four-times the bid budget.

Construction crews work on the Ariake Arena, which will host volleyball for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and wheelchair basketball for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, on Nov. 12 in Tokyo. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Games backers dispute that calculation, saying it unfairly includes the full costs of projects like road and transport upgrades, weather satellites and heat-stroke awareness that needed to happen regardless of the festivities.

But even the latest budget from the Tokyo Organizing Committee has the Olympics priced at $16.7 billion, almost double the original projected cost for the "compact, sustainable" Games, with 19 months of preparation still to come.

The IOC, which is continuing to struggle with the fallout from the Russian cheating scandal, actually got a bit of good news today.

The city of Stockholm met a Friday deadline to ratify its bid for the 2026 Winter Games, overcoming objections from some legislators and community groups.

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), presents Stockholm as a candidate city to host the 2026 Winter Olympics during the 133rd IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Oct. 9. (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)
The plan calls for events to be split between the Swedish capital, a ski resort 500 kilometres to the northwest, and an existing sliding venue across the Baltic Sea in Latvia.

The bid ensures that there will actually be a competition for the 2026 rights, as Milan/Cortina d'Ampezzo was the only other possible venue.

And if divine intervention is required, there is hope there too.

Yesterday, the Vatican launched its own athletics team, featuring nuns, priests, Swiss Guards and maintenance workers.

The goal is to ultimately march in an Opening Ceremony under the flag of the Holy See.

Given the respective state of the Olympic and Catholic Church brands, that might be perfect synergy.


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Redefining healthy eating

The revamp of Canada's Food Guide raises tricky issues about how proper nutrition gets defined, writes producer Perlita Stroh.

Canada's Food Guide is supposed to help Canadians know what foods, and how much of them, to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle. First introduced in 1942, it has been updated several times.

The problem is that the last time it was revised was more than 10 years ago when we had very different ideas about how healthy certain foods are.

"The Food Guide is just sorely outdated," says Dr. Danielle Martin of Women's College Hospital. "We know so much more now about how we should eat to stay healthy."

From right, obesity and diabetes specialist Dr. Sean Wharton, Dr. Danielle Martin of Women’s College Hospital, Dr. Lennox Huang from The Hospital for Sick Children, and The National co-host Andrew Chang prepare for tonight's Canada Food Guide health panel. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The last edition has juice listed as a fruit serving, for example — something many doctors now agree is a bad idea.

The new guide is expected to come out this spring, and already we know it will move away from meat sources and towards more plant-based proteins.

It will likely recommend less dairy intake as well, a move that isn't sitting well with the dairy and farm industries.

In a special discussion on The National tonight, Dr. Martin will join Dr. Lennox Huang from The Hospital for Sick Children, and obesity and diabetes specialist Dr. Sean Wharton, to talk about the Food Guide's flaws and how they think it can be improved.

- Perlita Stroh

  • WATCH: The panel about Canada's Food Guide tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

In case you missed it, here's The National's story on the politics and intense lobbying behind Canada's new food guide:

A new Canada Food Guide is expected in 2019, but why has it taken two years to bring in the update? It may have something to do with the 6,000 groups and individuals consulted. It's supposed to be a public health document based on the latest science, but all sorts of other interest groups are trying to shape it. 2:35

And the story looking at whether Canada still needs a food guide:

26,000 and counting. That's how many people Health Canada has consulted over the last three years as it works to overhaul this country's decades-old food guide. But with all this time, effort, and money being put in, is it really worth it? Do Canadians actually know, or care, what's in their food guide? 5:57


A few words on ... 

Connecting Montreal's homeless community.


Quote of the moment

"I needed to have an end point, because I was sort of playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop."

- British tennis great Andy Murray reveals that he plans to retire — after Wimbledon, he hopes, but perhaps as soon as this week's Australian Open — due to the agony of a "severely damaged" hip.

Andy Murray of Great Britain waves to the crowd after being defeated by fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia 7-5, 6-2 in Brisbane on Jan. 2. (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Purges, resignations hit North Korea's military, elites (Asia Times)
  • Job-related deaths in Canada dramatically under-reported: study (CBC)
  • Just 5 per cent of Earth's landscape remains untouched (Axios)
  • Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters journalists (Al Jazeera)
  • Extradited U.S. Nazi dies in German jail (Deutsche Welle)
  • Wisconsin teen missing since October found alive, suspect in custody (CBC)
  • Mystery of Easter Island statues solved (Guardian)
  • Tintin turns 90 (France 24)
  • Costco sells out of 12 kilogram mac-and-cheese bucket with 20-year shelf life (NY Post)

Today in history

Jan. 11, 1992: Canadian MPs expelled from China

Poor relations between Canada and China are nothing new. Back at the beginning of 1992, three visiting federal MPs — NDPer Svend Robinson, Liberal Beryl Gaffney, and Geoff Scott of the ruling Progressive Conservatives — got kicked out by Beijing. Their offence? Visiting the families of imprisoned Tiananmen Square dissidents and talking about it. The trio complained that they had been "kidnapped and manhandled" by security forces when they arrived in Hong Kong. No word if Scott — once the comedy partner of Rich Little — did any of his famous impressions for the cops.

Three visiting parliamentarians are asked to leave China when they push too hard on human rights. 6:51

A note to readers

The National Today is taking Monday off. We will return on Jan. 15.


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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.