Tokyo Olympics head Yoshiro Mori told a Japanese newspaper that he had decided to quit his post after global criticism erupted over his sexist remarks against women, but was convinced to reverse course after Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto and other Olympic officials begged him to stay on.

On Friday, the Mainichi Shimbun daily quoted Mori as saying that, just after the paper reported Thursday that he was prepared to resign over his remarks, a rushed meeting was held between him, Muto and other Tokyo Olympic officials, who tearfully urged him not to quit.

“When I looked around, those who didn’t say anything were all crying,” the Mainichi quoted Mori as saying. “What struck home most were Mr. Muto’s words: ‘If you step down as president, what would become of this organization of 5,000 people?'”

Mori told the Mainichi he had made up his mind to step down, and had conveyed that decision to his wife. But after being told by Muto and other officials that the International Olympic Committee, as well as Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, would be concerned if he quit, he reversed his position.

Mori added that, prior to the uproar over his comments, he had considered former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a possible successor, but that Abe’s long tenure in office made that impossible. After the firestorm over his remarks last week, he told the Mainichi, he again thought of Abe, but decided not to burden him with the job with less than six months until the games are scheduled to begin on July 23rd.

Mori came under fire after a speech Wednesday in which he said that a board meeting with lots of women would drag on. He added that someone had told him increasing the number of women on a board of directors would mean having to restrict their speaking time or they’ll never stop.

Tokyo 2020 head Yoshiro Mori enters a venue for a news conference in the capital on Thursday. | POOL / VIA REUTERS
Tokyo 2020 head Yoshiro Mori enters a venue for a news conference in the capital on Thursday. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

The uproar that followed forced Mori to apologize for his remarks at a news conference the next day, where he admitted they had been inappropriate but said he would not resign.

The International Olympic Committee’s response was that since Mori had apologized, the issue was over. But during a television appearance after his news conference, Mori said that, while his comments weren’t completely baseless, with the Tokyo Olympics drawing closer, he figured it was quicker to withdraw the comments because he cannot visit other countries to explain.

Meanwhile, pressure on Mori to resign continues to grow.

As of Sunday afternoon, about 126,000 people had signed an online petition at change.org calling for the Japanese Olympic Committee to take action against Mori, although it stops short of calling for his immediate dismissal.

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