Olympic minister applauds Tokyo golf venue’s decision to allow full membership to women

Kyodo

Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa on Tuesday welcomed the decision Monday by the embattled golf venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to allow women to become full members.

Still, she said she also intends to find out how the golf club was selected.

“I understand that the decision was based on recent global trends,” Marukawa said in a news conference. “With this decision, the International Olympic Committee’s concern over gender inequality has been erased.”

The decision was made at an extraordinary meeting of Kasumigaseki Country Club’s executive board held in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, following calls by the IOC to ensure nondiscriminatory regulations.

The private golf club, set to host the men’s and women’s golf competitions, had come under fire for its policy of not allowing women to become full members or to play on Sundays after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike raised the issue in January.

Marukawa said she will seek full transparency of the venue selection process.

“It may take a little time, but I’d like for all the facts to be brought to light,” she said, hinting that her ministry will to look into whether the process was open and aboveboard.

Separately, Koike also expressed her pleasure with the club’s decision.

“I’m very glad to see a traditional golf club hold repeated discussions and change its rules,” Koike told reporters at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. “I believe this decision reflects the club’s views of placing more importance on women’s rights.”

The club’s board met Feb. 7 to discuss the matter and then held three meetings with full members to explain the situation and hear their views.

After hearing various arguments from the 90-year-old facility’s nearly 1,200 members, its board moved to accept the request from the IOC and other related parties.

Elite golf courses around the world, including the Augusta National Golf Club in the United States where the Masters Tournament is held and Scotland’s Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which is widely regarded as the “Home of Golf,” have also opened their membership to women in recent years.

“We decided to open the path for women, taking into consideration the trends of the world and thinking about the future regardless of the Olympics,” said the club’s general manager Hiroshi Imaizumi.

The club, which has more than 200 female members, changed the regulation in question to say that full membership will be granted to “a person who has reached a certain age” from the earlier version that said “a man who has reached a certain age.”

IOC Vice President John Coates, who chairs the IOC’s coordination commission overseeing preparations for the Tokyo Games, welcomed the club’s decision to “change its membership regulations in favor of full gender equality.”

“We can now look forward to a great Olympic golf tournament at Kasumigaseki Country Club at Tokyo 2020. As we have said all along, gender equality is a fundamental principle of the Olympic movement and an important part of Olympic Agenda 2020, and we believe this decision now reflects this,” he said.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, said he is pleased with the move that keeps with the spirit of the Olympic charter.

“I’d like to extend my gratitude to the members of the club for their understanding and cooperation,” Mori said in a statement. “I also would like to express my admiration for the club’s endeavor to come to an agreement in such a short period of time.”

The 2020 organizing committee, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japan Golf Association said in a joint statement that they will continue to work toward delivering a successful competition in three years’ time.