Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori on Thursday apologized for making sexist remarks about women, saying he retracted the comments but that he would not resign, despite calls for him to step down.
The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday morning, and some users on the platform were calling on sponsors to pressure the Tokyo Organising Committee into dropping Mori from the top post.
The 83-year-old Mori, a former prime minister and head of the Tokyo organizing committee, acknowledged that his comments that women talked too much were “inappropriate” and against the Olympic spirit.
The apology came a day after Mori complained about what he believes is the tendency of women to talk too much and to have “a strong sense of rivalry” when he was asked about increasing gender diversity among board members of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
“It was an inappropriate remark. I would like to apologize,” Mori said. But asked if he would step down, he said he has “no intention of resigning,” stressing that he has a responsibility to hold a successful games.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Mori said that women talk too much in meetings and suggested that speaking time for women should be limited, referring to the JOC’s plan to increase the number of women on its board.
“The education ministry has been very insistent about choosing female directors. But a board meeting with plenty of women will make it drag on,” Mori said.
He cited his experience as a former president of the Japan Rugby Football Union, saying, “Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one (female) member raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak too. Everyone ends up saying something.”
“Somebody told me that if we increase the number of women (on the board), we have to also restrict their speaking time to an extent. Otherwise they’ll never stop, which is problematic,” Mori said on Wednesday.
After Wednesday’s meeting, JOC director Kaori Yamaguchi, who has worked tirelessly for years to revitalize the male-dominated sports world by increasing the presence of women, criticized Mori for his comments.
“Gender equality and consideration for people with disabilities were supposed to be a given for the Tokyo Games. It is unfortunate to see the president of the organizing committee make such a remark,” she said.
The JOC has set a goal of increasing the number of women on its board of directors to 40%. Women currently comprise only 20% of members.
In an apparent protest of Mori’s comments, Noriko Mizoguchi, a former judo silver medalist, tweeted the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics and said that any type of harassment should be rejected.
Renho, a prominent opposition lawmaker, called Mori’s remarks “shameful.”
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said it “goes without saying” that women should be included in the decision-making process, adding she believes someone “talking too much” is an issue with an individual, rather than their gender.
Japan persistently trails its peers on promoting gender equality, ranking 121 out of 153 nations surveyed in the 2020 global gender gap report of the World Economic Forum.
Anger over Mori’s comments is likely to further alienate a Japanese public that has grown wary of Tokyo’s attempts to hold the games during a pandemic.
Nearly 80% of the Japanese public opposes holding the games as scheduled in July, according to a recent poll.
With less than six months to go until the Tokyo Olympics, Mori has reiterated that the games will be “held at any cost,” brushing aside rumors that they would be postponed again or canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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