Tokyo 2020 Olympics boss quits after 'inappropriate' comments about women

12 February 2021, 12:23

Tokyo 2020 Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori resigned after the remarks
Tokyo 2020 Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori resigned after the remarks. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The head of Tokyo's Olympic and Paralympic Games organising committee has quit over remarks he made about women.

Yoshiro Mori has stood down as the organisation's president after suggesting meetings involving females tended to drag on.

The news was confirmed ahead of a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting on Friday - over a week since he said was "was not thinking" about leaving the role.

"My inappropriate statement has caused a lot of chaos," Mr Mori, whose words were translated into English, said.

"I will be resigning from the president's position."

Read more: Reports Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled are 'categorically untrue'

Former chair of the Japanese Football Association Saburo Kawabuchi has been reported to have been lined up as the replacement according to the Kyodo news agency.

Earlier this week the International Olympic Committee released a statement saying his comments were "inappropriate" but stopped short of calling for him to quit.

Mr Mori's exit is the latest setback for the Games organisers, who have been beset by problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yoshiro Mori stepped down from the role after suggesting women make meetings drag on
Yoshiro Mori stepped down from the role after suggesting women make meetings drag on. Picture: PA Images

The Games were due to take place last summer but were delayed by 12 months, and there is no suggestion of a second postponement or cancellation despite the staging of the Games remaining unpopular among Tokyo residents.

In his resignation statement, Mr Mori added "The important thing is that the Olympic Games is to be held in July. If I am going to be (an obstacle) to the Games delivery then that is something I think we should avoid."

His comments have also been criticised by Games sponsor Toyota, among others.

On Tuesday, a group of female Japanese politicians wore white as a mark of protest against the 83-year-old's remarks.

"I didn't mean for (my remarks) to be neglecting women but I guess it was broadcasted in that way," Mr Mori said.

"I actually worked a lot to allow women to be able to 'voice out', even more than men.

"There were times when the females were not voicing out but I had appointed a couple of women so I can give them an environment and an opportunity to state whatever it is they wanted to say."

Mr Mori said he had spoken for an hour via teleconference with IOC president Thomas Bach since making the controversial remarks.

Tokyo 2020 was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Tokyo 2020 was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: PA Images

"He gave me a lot of words of encouragement and he also praised me for being able to bring Tokyo 2020 to this point in time," Mr Mori said.

"He expressed his respect for the efforts that I have made.

"We need to make sure the Games are fully delivered and if my presence is going to be an obstacle ... somebody mentioned the old people should resign, there were some people who used these words.

"The elderly have worked hard to support society and it is quite frustrating when the elderly are neglected in that way by using the 'old guy' phrase."

Read more: WHO warns Tokyo 2020 athletes against 'jumping the queue' for Covid-19 jab

Reacting to the resignation, Mr Bach said in a statement: "The IOC fully respects President Mori's decision to step down and understands his reasons for doing so.

"At the same time, we would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution to the organisation of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 over the course of the past years.

"Among his many accomplishments, President Mori helped to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared Olympic city. The IOC will continue working hand-in-hand with his successor to deliver a safe and secure Games."

Internation Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach wished Mr Mori well for the future
Internation Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach wished Mr Mori well for the future. Picture: PA Images

Tokyo 2020 Toshiro Muto slapped down suggestions Mr Kawabuchi would take on the presidency, saying that he would not be the replacement - even if asked.

He affirmed that said a further committee, split 50-50 between men and women and chaired by Tokyo 2020 honorary president Fujio Mitarai, would be set up to review the candidates to succeed Mr Mori as president.

He added that the organisers would seek to increase the percentage of women on the committee board and to add female appointments to the executive board, at vice-president level and above.

Asked whether he would be happy for a woman to be appointed as president, he said: "In selecting the president we don't need to discuss or debate gender, we are simply (looking) to choose the right person."

Muto was asked whether Mr Mori would remain in a formal capacity or as an informal advisor to the organisers, and did not rule it out.

"Currently we are not discussing any position for him," he said.