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Japanese ex-PM Mori to resign from the Tokyo Olympic chief post after sexist remarks

The Tokyo Olympics will not be able to take place next summer unless a COVID-19 vaccine is found, a leading Japanese vaccine researcher has told Sky News. Photo: Sky News. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Feb 11, 2021, The Mainichi. Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has said he has decided to step down to take responsibility for recent sexist remarks, multiple sources close to him have disclosed, The Mainichi reported.

Mori had sparked a global backlash over his comment that meetings with many female participants tend to “drag on.”

Organizing committee officials are planning an emergency meeting on Feb. 12 to discuss the situation and announce Mori’s resignation. At first the plan was for Mori to explain the background of his remarks, apologize, and seek understanding for continuing in his post. But the backlash that had erupted in Japan and overseas began to affect preparations for the games this summer.

Media organizations in Japan and abroad slammed Mori’s comments as “sexist,” and calls for his resignation mounted on social media. On Feb. 10, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced that she would skip a four-party meeting scheduled this month with Mori, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach and Japanese Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, stating it would “likely not deliver a very positive message.” Meanwhile, four of Japan’s opposition parties aligned to press Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to have Mori step down.

The remarks in question were made during a Feb. 3 meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Olympic Committee councilors. Citing his previous experience working as president of the Japan Rugby Football Union, Mori said, “Board meetings with lots of women drag on.”

On Feb. 4, he held a news conference in Tokyo, saying his remarks were inappropriate and went against the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but denied that he intended to step down. He also snapped loudly at a reporter, “You’re asking this because you want to make the story sound funny, aren’t you?”

After Mori withdrew his comments, the IOC and other parties stated on Feb. 4 that the “issue was over,” trying to quickly bring it to a close. But on Feb. 9, the IOC issued a fresh statement saying that Mori’s remarks were “absolutely inappropriate and in contradiction to the IOC’s commitments and the reforms of its Olympic Agenda 2020.”

On social media, an online petition called on the Japanese government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the games’ organizing committee to consider how Mori should be dealt with, while European embassies in Japan called on people not to be silent. Overseas media including The New York Times questioned allowing Mori to stay on, while Reuters reported that criticism of his comments had shown “no sign of abating.”

When questioned by the Mainichi Shimbun on Feb. 4, Mori stated, “From the beginning, I had no lingering attachment to the post of (organizing committee) president,” and said that he had intended to step down, but that he had been strongly persuaded by other organizing committee members to stay on.

However, with the spread of the novel coronavirus already casting a shadow over the Tokyo Games, criticism of Mori’s comments emerged as another negative development, making it practically impossible for him to keep his post.

Mori played a role in bringing the games to Tokyo as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee’s head councilor. He has served as president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games since it was established in January 2014.

(Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi and Tadashi Murakami, Sports News Department)

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