Ex-Prime Minister Mori, 76, agrees to chair Olympic organizing committee

JIJI, AP

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has agreed to serve as chairman of the organizing committee for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

At a meeting in Tokyo on Sunday, education and sports minister Hakubun Shimomura, who doubles as minister in charge of the Olympics, asked Mori to take the post. Mori, 76, agreed readily.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe backs his appointment, which will be formalized at a meeting this week with Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda and Tokyo Vice Gov. Toshiyuki Akiyama. The organizing committee is expected to be launched on Jan. 24.

The selection of the chairman was led by the JOC, the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Mori was selected after early efforts to comb business circles for a candidate failed and then-Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose quit in December over a money scandal.

In the government and ruling coalition, strong calls emerged for Mori to take up the job due to his experience in the failed bid to bring the 2016 Olympics to Tokyo, and his broad connections, sources said.

Mori initially demurred, citing his age.

Sunday’s meeting was also joined by Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, supreme adviser to the JOC. At the request of the JOC and Tokyo’s government, Shimomura asked Mori in person to serve as chairman.

After the meeting, Shimomura said he decided that Mori, who is well-connected in sports and business circles, was the best pick because a national commitment is needed to make the Olympics a success.

Mori was prime minister for a year from April 2000. His term was marked by gaffes and apparent poor judgment, including continuing to play golf after receiving news the submarine USS Greeneville had accidentally hit and sank a Japanese fisheries training ship off Oahu in February 2001, killing nine students and teachers.