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Tokyo Olympics head Mori to resign over sexist comment

"Board of directors meetings with many women take more time," said the 83-year-old former prime minister.

04 February 2021, Japan, Tokyo: President of Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee Yoshiro Mori speaks during a press conference after he was harshly criticized for his sexist remarks. Photo: Pool/ZUMA Wire/dpa
President of Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee Yoshiro Mori speaks during a press conference. Photo: Pool/ZUMA Wire/dpa.

Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori will step down over his sexist remarks, which caused an international uproar, local media reported on Thursday.

His resignation would come less than six months before the opening of the delayed Tokyo Olympics amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organizers are considering appointing former Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi as a successor, Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed sources. 

The committee will hold a special meeting on Friday, in which its board members "will be invited to express their opinions" on Mori's remarks and to discuss its future gender equality initiatives, it said on Wednesday.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Wednesday she will not attend a four-party meeting involving International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach planned later this month.

Holding a meeting “would not send a positive message,” she told reporters.

Speaking at a Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) meeting last week, Mori suggested that women talk too much at meetings of boards of directors.

"Board of directors meetings with many women take more time," said the 83-year-old former prime minister.

He was referring to JOC’s plan to raise the percentage of women on its board of directors to 40%. Currently only five of its 24 members are women.

"Women are competitive. When one person raises a hand to speak, others apparently feel compelled to speak up as well. So, everyone speaks," he said, referring to his experience as a former president of the Japan Rugby Football Union.

Apology

Mori later retracted the remarks and offered an apology, but refused to quit while pressure mounted on him to quit.

Toyota Motor president Akio Toyoda said in a statement on Wednesday "It is truly regrettable that (Mori's comments) are different from the values that Toyota has cherished."

The Japanese carmaker is one of the Games’ major sponsors.

On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) strongly criticized Mori's remarks, saying his comments were "absolutely inappropriate and in contradiction to the IOC's commitments and the reforms of its Olympic Agenda 2020."

A Kyodo survey showed on Sunday 6.8% of those polled said Mori was “qualified” as the head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, while nearly 60% said he was “not qualified” for the top post.

Mori was one of the most unpopular prime ministers in modern Japan. He was known as a string of gaffes and low approval ratings.

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