• By The Financial District


Dentsu Group Inc. donated more than $6 million to Tokyo’s campaign to host the 2020 Olympics, according to bank records seen by Reuters, and it lobbied members of the International Olympic Committee on behalf of the city, according to three people involved in the lobbying.

The activities created a potential conflict of interest for the Japanese advertising company, which had a separate contract with the IOC to market the games. To assist in its effort, Dentsu endorsed the hiring of a Singaporean consultant by the Tokyo Olympic campaign. The company’s role is laid out in transcripts of interviews company executives gave to investigators appointed by the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) to examine whether there had been any wrongdoing in the course of Tokyo’s campaign.

French prosecutors investigating corruption in global sports suspect that the consultant, Tan Tong Han, played a role in bribing Olympic voters for Tokyo in 2013, according to two people familiar with the French probe. Tan did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Until now, Dentsu has played down its involvement with the Tokyo campaign. In answer to questions from Reuters, the company said its employees only provided advice, when asked, on “several experts and consultants in the sports field,” including Tan. But in the months leading up to the IOC vote to award the Olympics in 2013, Dentsu played a much more active role, according to the three people involved in lobbying and campaign bank records, even as it maintained its longstanding business relationship with the IOC. That placed it on both sides of a competitive bid, a possible conflict under IOC guidelines. Article 10 of the IOC’s rules of conduct for cities vying to host the games states that its top tier of advertisers and marketing partners “shall refrain from supporting or promoting any of the cities” in order to “preserve the integrity and neutrality” of the bidding process.