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Tokyo 2020 Olympic chief Mori faces media scrutiny

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Yoshiro Mori, the new Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Organizing Committee president and former Prime Minister, faced some tough questions from the international media at a news conference on Sunday morning at the Main Media Center for the Sochi Games.

One reporter wanted to know why the 76-year-old Mori spoke in Japanese instead of English while addressing an audience including reporters from foreign countries.

“You know, in my generation very few people understood foreign languages,” Mori said. “I was in the second grade when the war (World War II) ended and English was considered the enemy’s language. And if I should make a huge mistake (by speaking English incorrectly) it could lead to problems.

Added Mori, ” And when you come to Japan, can you speak Japanese?”

Another journalist asked about the seemingly advanced age of the Tokyo 2020 organizing team and the lack of females on the committee.

“There will be more people to be assigned to positions in several sections of our committee,” commented Mori. “Also 25-30 people will be appointed as an executive board member. Therefore I will take a woman’s appointment into full consideration. I would like young people to join us. I would like women to do so as well.”

Mori said he will be seeking to put staff in positions they are appropriate for.

“I would like to assign the right people in the right places,” he stated.

Mori also spoke of his previous meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan hosting the 1964 Tokyo Games.

“Nineteen years after the end of the World War (II) we were able to organize the games and showed that Japan had become a peaceful nation,” Mori said. “President Putin shares these thoughts, that the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights are values which must be important for Russia. He told me that a few years ago.”

  • Chiisai (Paul) Sakanashima

    Aisatsu!

    I can’t believe that a reporter would ask a highly respected Olympic official why he did not speak English while addressing an audience that included reporters from foreign countries…hello…do I detect someone that does not understand Japanese? Or should I say Nihongo? First of all, he can speak what ever language he likes! Especially in his own country. Wow, I can’t believe the irony of some people! It’s almost upsetting to say the least how some people can be so ignorant.

    Think of it this way, if an American spokesman were to address a crowd of reporters in the United States and spoke English, and then one of the reporters asked “Oh, gee, by the way, why did you not speak Japanese”? Or any other language for that matter, what do you think he or she would say??? A few words of exchange would take place that I won’t repeat here, thank you very much, in addition to getting dirty looks!

    What comes around goes around. On a side note, I am Japanese decent, born in America. We speak 5 different languages in our family from when the time my parents immigrated to this country back in the 50′s. Why is it then that people get criticized for not knowing English in the USA when most people around the world are multilingual and Americans are not? I think Mori said it all when he stated: “And when you come to Japan, can you speak Japanese?” I about rolled on the floor laughing! That shut the reporter up, and if I had been there, I would have applauded Mori myself! Arigatoo gozaimasu.

    • xph123

      You are very dense. It is a completely valid question why the next host of the Olympics decided to not answer questions in English. You do understand that the “official” languages that are spoken at Olympic events are the host native language, ENGLISH and French. You likely missed what I just said, so Ill be more blunt. ALL announcements at Toyko olympics will be REQUIRED to be in the host language, ENGLISH AND FRENCH.

      With that said, why not address the world in the worlds most used language? Your example of an American “spokesman” is ignorant at best, addressing the world in the worlds most commonly used language seems pretty rudimentary to me, but I guess you’re not the brightest crayon in the box.

    • Douglas Toole

      You are speaking from the heart and not the mind, English first of all is one of two official languages of the Olympic movement, French being the other. Secondly he is not in Japan, he was addressing the media in Sochi, and it was an Olympic related event, which means he is obligated to address the media in at least one of those two languages as well as the native tongue of the future host country. So before going on your rants about how ironic this is, maybe you should read a little more of the article instead of just the title…..Because frankly the only irony in this story, and yours, is that this gentleman was failing to address the media in Russian in Russia, while he was complaining that people will not be speaking Japanese in Japan. He was addressing the world, not Japan.

    • Mark

      English is the Lingua Franca for many people. Having a dominant language helps native speakers but it also helps non-natives as well, allowing them to communicate without needing to learn many languages.
      I am currently in Greece and everyone speaks English. This benefits me (Australian) as well as Germans, Chinese, ect
      I want to learn Japanese and plan to got there again soon to learn it but most will only be there for two weeks so it is not logical for them to learn the language and showed how ignorant Mr Mori was. Fortunately I found most of the young people in Japan do speak English so the future generations are smarter..

  • zer0_0zor0

    Mori as head of the Olympics Organizing Committee???

    One would think that his well-documented ties to organized crime, etc., would preclude his being appointed to such a position.

    This is part and par for the course being plotted by Abe, resonating with the recent pronouncements by right-wing ideologues to the NHK Board of Governors.

    Cronyism at it grandest,