Mori resigns as Tokyo Olympics boss after outcry over sexist comments
TOKYO (AP) – Yoshiro Mori resigned as chairman of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee on Friday following sexist comments suggesting women talk too much.
“As of today, I will step down as chairman,” he said at the opening of a board and council meeting. The board was due to choose its successor later on Friday. Mori was named in 2014, just months after Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics.
“My inappropriate comments caused a lot of chaos,” he said. He has repeatedly said he regrets the comments, but also said he “has no intention of neglecting women”.
Mori’s departure comes after more than a week of relentless criticism of his comments earlier this month. He apologized at first but refused to step down, which was followed by relentless pressure from TV pundits, sponsors and an online petition that drew 150,000 signatures.
But it’s not clear his resignation will clean the air and bring attention back to exactly how Tokyo can host the Olympics in just over five months amid a pandemic.
The Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more at the Paralympics a month later. About 80% of recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics canceled or postponed with clear support of around 15%.
According to initial reports, Mori, 83, had chosen Saburo Kawabuchi, 84, the former chairman of the Japanese football governing body and himself a former player. He played for Japan at the 1964 Olympics.
Kawabuchi is even older than Mori and will raise the question of why a woman was not named. This is the center of all the debate Mori has sparked about gender inequality in Japan and the absence of women on boards, politics and sports governance. Women are also largely absent from leadership positions within the organizing committee.
Kawabuchi said on Thursday that he had been contacted by Mori and would take the job if offered to him. But he later said he might not have been the appropriate choice and appeared to withdraw.
Japanese media immediately pointed out that there were three qualified women – all athletes and former Olympians and at least a younger generation – who could fill the post.
Kaori Yamaguchi won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in judo. Mikako Kotani won two bronze medals at the 1988 Olympics in synchronized swimming. And Naoko Takahashi was a gold medalist in the 2000 Olympic Games marathon.
Seiko Hashimoto, the current Olympic minister and former Olympian, was also mentioned as a candidate.
Mori’s remarks highlighted Japan’s lag behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or on boards of directors. Japan is 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality ranking.
Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, described Japan as a country still run “by a club of old people”. But he said it could be a turning point.
“Social norms are changing,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “A clear majority of Japanese found Mori’s comments unacceptable, so the problem is more related to the lack of representation of women in leadership positions. This sad episode could have the effect of reinforcing the call for greater gender equality and greater diversity in the corridors of power. “
Although some on the streets have called for Mori’s resignation – several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are stepping down – most policymakers, including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, have abstained and simply condemned his remarks .
A few days ago, a comment from Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Akio Toyoda seemed to shake things up.
Toyota is one of 14 so-called TOP Olympic sponsors who donate approximately $ 1 billion every four years to the International Olympic Committee. The company rarely talks about politics, and Toyota has not called for Mori’s resignation. But talking about the issue could have been enough.
“(Mori’s) comment is different from our values, and we find it regrettable.” Toyoda said.
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