Tokyo Games chief quits after sexism row

·2-min read

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori has resigned 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 former prime minister Mori, 83, will further erode confidence in the 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, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto told a news conference after a meeting of a board of advisers following Mori's resignation.

He did not say when the decision would be made but said it have to be made quickly and the candidate should have Olympic experience and understand things like diversity and inclusion.

Among the possible candidates was Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, media said.

Hashimoto, 56, is a seven-time Olympian and pioneering female lawmaker. Her first name is based on the Japanese words for the Olympic flame and she was born just days before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics opened.

Mori sparked a furore when he said during an Olympic committee meeting this month that women talk too much, setting off a chorus of calls for him to be sacked.

"A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time," Mori was quoted as saying. "Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak too. That is why they all end up making comments."

He initially refused to step down but that changed on Friday.

"My inappropriate comments caused big trouble. I'm sorry," Mori said.

"The most important thing is to hold the Tokyo Olympics in July," he added. "I cannot allow my presence to serve as interference to the various preparations."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was "as committed as ever" to staging the Games, which are due to open on July 23.

"The IOC will continue working hand-in-hand with his successor to deliver safe and secure Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.

Mori said that though he may have said something unnecessary, he did not do it intentionally and felt his comments were misinterpreted by the media, adding he was not prejudiced against women.

"I have been trying to support women as much as possible, and I have been trying to support women more than men so they can speak," he said.

Mori on Thursday had asked the mayor of the Olympic Village, 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, to take over the job but by Friday, amid public dismay that the chosen successor was another older man, media reported that Kawabuchi turned the job down.

Broadcaster Fuji News Network quoted a government source as saying: "We can't give the impression that things have changed unless we install a woman or see a generational shift."