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Tokyo Olympic golf venue to review policy of not admitting females as full members

AFP-JIJI

A Japanese country club set to host the 2020 Olympic golf competition said Wednesday it would consider changing a policy not to admit women as full members after Tokyo’s female governor slammed the rule.

Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, north of Tokyo, came under fire last week as Yuriko Koike said she felt “very uncomfortable that women cannot become full members in the 21st century.”

“It should be a venue open to everyone,” the capital’s top official told reporters on Friday.

This week, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper cited unnamed sources as saying the International Olympic Committee had serious concerns, and was in contact with the International Golf Federation (IGF) over the issue.

On Wednesday, the club’s general manager, Hiroshi Imaizumi, said there would be a discussion about changing the longstanding policy if either international body requested it.

“I think we should keep up with the times,” Imaizumi told AFP.

The club has 220 women listed, but they are not allowed to become full members and cannot play on certain Sundays — restrictions that do not apply to male members.

“We haven’t received any complaints from female members about the rules so we were surprised” by Koike’s criticism, he added.

Golf’s international body visited the club before it was chosen as the 2020 venue, but Imaizumi said he was unsure if it was familiar with the policy.

The club has hosted major tournaments and “fully meets requirements for the Olympic-level golf competitions,” the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a statement Wednesday.

But the committee added that it “will continue studying the club owner’s policy on the membership eligibility and responses to the public discussion.”

Last year, historic Scottish golf course Muirfield lost its status as a British Open venue after voting to not admit female members.

Local Olympic organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori has expressed different concerns about the Tokyo-area club, saying players would have a two to three hour daily commute from the athletes’ village, Japanese media reported.

Summertime temperatures in the area, which can soar as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), have also been cited as a potential problem.

Plans for the Tokyo Games have been marred by problems, including a plagiarism scandal and huge cost overruns.