A corruption case involving a powerful International Olympic Committee member is likely to overshadow meetings this week in Tokyo with local Olympic organizers, IOC officials, and the heads of 206 national Olympic committees.
President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah speechs during the Asian Games 2018 Closing Ceremony on September 2, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (File photo: VCG)
Under pressure, Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah stepped down temporarily last week as an IOC member amid a pending criminal trial in Switzerland. He denies any wrongdoing and has said the charges against him are "politically motivated."
He has been an IOC member since 1992 and is the head of the Olympic Council of Asia.
In addition to his International Olympic Committee membership, the Kuwaiti is also the head of the powerful Association of National Olympic Committees. That group with 1,400 delegates meets this week in Tokyo, with its general assembly meetings on Wednesday and Thursday at a luxury Tokyo hotel complex.
Sheikh Ahmad is set to be re-elected unopposed as head of the umbrella group, though the case pending against him creates an open and difficult problem for the IOC.
He is one of three members listed as suspended on the IOC's website. The others are Patrick Hickey of Ireland, and Frank Fredericks of Namibia.
Hickey was arrested in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro on suspicion of ticket scalping, and Fredericks has been charged in a French investigation connected with vote buying in the selection of the 2016 Olympic host city.
Honorary member Carlos Nuzman of Brazil, who headed the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, is also suspended on corruption allegations connected with vote-buying.
Sheikh Ahmad has not talked publicly about the charges against him. Reports in Kuwait say they are linked to a domestic issue and are connected to a dispute with another royal family member.
Sheikh Ahmad resigned from FIFA — the governing body of world soccer — days after being identified in April 2017 as "co-conspirator 2" in American federal court documents.
While he may be relatively unknown to sports fans, he is credited with helping Thomas Bach be elected president of the IOC in 2013, and controls millions of dollars in funds through the Olympic umbrella body.
Bach is also in Tokyo this week for meetings with ANOC and local organizers. The IOC is also holding its own set of meetings, and will be inspecting facilities for the Tokyo Olympics, which are only 600 days away.