Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori admits he may be forced to resign as public outrage grows over sexist comments

Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori is facing calls to resign.
PHOTO: Reuters

The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organising committee said he may need to resign over sexist comments that women board members had difficulty speaking concisely, which was annoying, the Mainichi newspaper quoted him as saying on Thursday (Feb 4).

The 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, said he may step down if calls for his resignation continue.

“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” said Mori at a Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board of trustees meeting, according to a report in the Asahi newspaper.

“We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”

The JOC decided in 2019 to aim for more than 40 per cent female members on the board, but there are only five women among the 24 members.

Mori’s comments caused immediate furore on social media. The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday morning and some users on the platform were already calling on sponsors to pressure the Tokyo organising committee into dropping him from the top post.

Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato declined to comment directly on Mori’s reported comments or whether the growing calls for him to resign would affect the Olympics.

Describing the country’s gender-equality initiatives, Kato said only that the government would continue to push sports and other organisations to raise participation of women on their boards.

Japan persistently trails its peers on promoting gender equality, ranking 121 out of 153 nations surveyed in the 2020 global gender gap report of the World Economic Forum.

Mori plans to speak to media on Thursday afternoon to explain his comments and apologise, Nippon TV reported. However, he is not thinking of resigning, the broadcaster said.

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Anger over Mori’s comments is likely to further alienate a Japanese public that has grown wary of Tokyo’s attempts to hold the already-delayed Games during a pandemic.

Nearly 80 per cent of the Japanese public opposes holding the Games as scheduled in July, according to the most recent poll.

Mori, who is no stranger to controversy and whose tenure as premier was marked by a string of gaffes and blunders, told the Mainichi paper on Thursday he was “scolded” for his remarks by his wife, his daughter and granddaughter.

“I believe I have to fulfil my responsibility, but I may have to resign if voices calling for my resignation get stronger,” Mori told the paper.

The Tokyo organising committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an apparent protest of Mori’s comments, Noriko Mizoguchi, a former judo silver medallist, tweeted the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics and said that any type of harassment should be rejected.