Judo abuse scandal hits Tokyo Olympic bid
TOKYO (AP) — Just when Tokyo was getting a boost in its bid to host the 2020 Olympics, a scandal surfaced within the Japanese sporting culture and threatened to undermine the nation's hosting hopes.
Tokyo bid officials were thrilled last month when a poll showed that public support for the bid had risen to 73 percent, given that low public support had derailed the 2016 bid.
But on the same day the new figures came out, the Japan Judo Federation revealed that the head coach of the women's Olympic team, Ryuji Sonoda, had used violence against athletes at a training camp before the London Olympics.
For Tokyo 2020 organizers, the timing couldn't have been worse — an IOC evaluation committee will visit Tokyo in March. One of the main themes of Tokyo's bid is "athletes first."
The Judo federation revealed 15 female judoka sent a letter to the Japanese Olympic Committee at the end of last year complaining they had been subjected to harassment and physical violence by Sonoda at a pre-Olympic training camp. The federation, which knew about the problem since September when some of the women first raised the issue, even renewed Sonoda's contract.
Sonoda tried to justify his behavior by saying he was under tremendous pressure to produce gold-medal winners in London, and later resigned. He said he didn't think slapping was considered violence and that he was trained in the same way.
Sports minister Hakubun Shimomura has described the situation as the most serious crisis in Japan's sports history.
"The sports community must make concerted efforts to go back to the fundamental principle that violence should be eradicated from sports instruction," Shimomura said.
Days after Sonoda stepped down, two-time Olympic judo champion Masato Uchishiba was sentenced to five years in prison for raping a female member of a university judo club in 2011.
Naoki Ogi, a former teacher and popular social critic, attributes the corporal punishment to poor coaching techniques.
"Corporal punishment is an easy solution for instructors who lack leadership and skills, who know they won't be challenged," Ogi wrote on his blog. "It's a dirty trick."
Ogi suggests the JOC and the judo federation coordinated their responses to the scandal.
"They must be colluding," Ogi said, adding that the JOC should have launched its own investigation a long time ago. "There is no doubt this ongoing scandal will affect (Tokyo's) Olympic bid. It's a pity."
The complaints by the 15 women were initially ignored by the judo federation, which has no women on its 26-member executive board, so they decided to take it to the JOC.
Sports Photo Galleriesview all
- 22453Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 12179Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms drink in success of 'Hangover' series
- 10764Oklahoma tornadoes: Woman meets the military officer who shared the clothes off his back
- 9050Oklahoma tornadoes: Thunder reverses the role, takes a turn at cheering on the community
- 8838Hobby Lobby argues case before federal judges
- 8708Blake Shelton's "Healing the Heartland" televised tornado benefit set for Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena
- 8233Story behind the photo: Family members describe desperate search for one another after EF5 twister