TOKYO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori resigned on Friday and apologised again for sexist remarks that sparked a global outcry, leaving the troubled Olympics searching for a chief five months from the opening ceremony.
The resignation of the 83-year-old former prime minister further erodes confidence in organisers’ ability to pull off the postponed Summer Games during a coronavirus pandemic.
A selection committee made up of an equal number of men and women, and centred around athletes, would choose a new president for the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, the group’s chief executive Toshiro Muto told a news conference.
“We need to pick the next president urgently,” Muto said, without saying when. The new president needed experience in the Olympics or Paralympics and a “really high-level understanding” of gender equality, diversity and inclusion, he said.
The issue has focused global attention on gender disparity in the world’s third-largest economy. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe championed a policy of “Womenomics” but activists and many women say Japan still has a long way to go - especially in the workplace.
Mori sparked a furore when he said during an Olympic committee meeting this month that women talk too much. He initially refused to step down.
“My inappropriate comments caused big trouble. I’m sorry,” Mori said on Friday, adding the most important thing was the success of the Tokyo Games.
Mori again fanned the flames on Thursday by asking the mayor of the Olympic Village, 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, to take over the job. That triggered widespread public dismay about the post going to another octogenarian man and media later reported that Kawabuchi turned the job down.
“We can’t give the impression that things have changed unless we install a woman or see a generational shift,” a government source told Broadcaster Fuji News Network.
Seiko Hashimoto, a pioneering female lawmaker and seven-time Olympian, was among the candidates to replace Mori, media said. Born just days before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics opened, her first name is based on the Japanese word for the Olympic flame.
Hashimoto said she had not been asked to replace Mori and that Japan would stay focused on preparations.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2021