Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida © Getty Images

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was grilled by lawmakers on Monday on alleged gifts given to International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

Lawmakers inquired about Ishikawa Governor Hiroshi Hase's admission that he provided gifts to IOC members during the bidding process for the Tokyo Games, which were held in 2021 after a one-year delay due to COVID-19.

Hase, a former lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who chaired the Tokyo Olympic bidding promotion committee, disclosed that he used "secret funds" to purchase gifts for IOC members, as reported by Tokyo-based Kyodo News.

In particular, the former parliamentarian explained that he had drawn on the funds to create photo albums that retraced the competitive careers of IOC members, at a unit cost of around 200 thousand yen (1,342 dollars).

Japan hosted the Tokyo Games in 2021, originally scheduled for the summer of 2020. If these allegations are substantiated, it would constitute a violation of the IOC's ethical code.

Hiroshi Hase talks to the media during a Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee press conference © Getty Images
Hiroshi Hase talks to the media during a Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee press conference © Getty Images

After he made the remarks in his speech on Nov 17 in Tokyo, Hase said that when Japan was bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told him to "make sure we win" and "we will give you as much money as you want as there are secret funds."

Hase, faced with the political scandal triggered by his recent statements, has meanwhile decided to retract them: "They were inappropriate and could cause misunderstandings, therefore I retract them completely", said the former parliamentarian in a statement.

At a parliamentary session on Monday, a lawmaker of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, urged Kishida to assume responsibility for investigating Hase's comments and reporting the findings to the Diet.

"I would like to think about concrete responses after carefully considering the circumstances surrounding the retraction" Kishida said in response to the governor's remarks.

IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters last week that he was unaware of such comments made by Hase. In 2013, Tokyo secured the 2020 Summer Olympics, but due to the global spread of the coronavirus, the event was postponed for a year.