Tokyo Olympic bid chief vows to stop coach abuse

Japan's Olympic chief vowed Friday to stamp out the physical abuse of athletes by coaches after claims female judokas were beaten with bamboo swords threatened to cast a cloud over Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Games.

Japanese Olympic Committe (JOC) president Tsunekazu Takeda speaks to an AFP reporter in Tokyo on February 1, 2013. Tsunekazu Takeda vowed to stamp out the physical abuse of athletes by coaches after claims female judokas were beaten with bamboo swords threatened to cast a cloud over Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Games.

Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) president Tsunekazu Takeda, who is also the Tokyo bid chief, told AFP in an interview he had ordered swift action to avoid any contamination of the bid.

"We are seeking prompt internal reform," said Takeda.

"The JOC takes it upon itself to eliminate violence from sport as advocated by the Olympic Charter," he added. "We will be trying to restore public trust in sport and work to prevent the (Olympic) bid from being affected."

Takeda's comments come after Ryuji Sonoda resigned as head of Japan's women's judo team after 15 of his athletes, including some who competed in last year's London Olympics, accused him of repeated physical and emotional abuse.

The furore that erupted sparked fears that Tokyo's 2020 bid could be snared at a time organisers were readying for a visit by International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors evaluating bids by Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid.

The JOC set up a task force to investigate the allegations and work out counter-measures against corporal punishment, a practice widely seen as a way of life for many sports over decades.

Asked if the judo scandal could give IOC members a negative image of sport in Japan and curb public support for Tokyo's bid, Takeda was bullish.

"In response to the problem, the head coach is being changed and I believe the judo federation will quickly move forward with its internal reform," he said.

The 100-plus IOC members will vote to choose the 2020 host city on September 7 in Buenos Aires.

Education and sports minister Hakubun Shimomura urged sports bosses to get a handle on the problem of physical abuse before the IOC inspectors visit Tokyo March 4-7.

"There is a need to take resolute action in order to convince the international community that the problem of violence in sport has been completely eliminated before the visit," he told reporters.

The scandal emerged just weeks after a Japanese high school student killed himself following repeated physical abuse from his basketball coach.

Japan has been especially shocked by this week's events, with judo, a home-grown martial art, long being the main source of Olympic gold medals for the country.

The Swiss-based International Judo Federation has condemned the abuse in a statement: "It has nothing to do with the spirit and philosophy of judo taught by the founding master of our sport, Master Jigoro Kano."

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