Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori will resign after making remarks about women that sparked outrage at home and abroad and were widely slammed as sexist, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
With less than six months before the opening ceremony for the games, Mori is expected to announce his resignation Friday during an extraordinary meeting of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which he chairs.
His apparent decision comes after government and ruling party officials expressed harsh views Wednesday regarding his prospects following the derogatory remarks.
A source close to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Mori won't be able to withstand mounting criticism, noting that the verbal blunder has also been slammed overseas and that people in high-ranking positions in Western countries never make such remarks.
Having initially said it considered the matter closed with Mori's apology, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later branded his remarks "completely inappropriate" as the backlash grew.
On Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she would not attend a four-party meeting involving IOC chief Thomas Bach that had been planned for this month because holding discussions at this point "would not deliver anything really positive."
The meeting, which was proposed by Bach last month to go over games preparations, was expected to be held Feb. 17 and include Mori and Seiko Hashimoto, minister for the Tokyo Games.
The 83-year-old former prime minister said at a Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) meeting on Feb. 3 that having women participate in meetings meant they tended to "drag on."
"When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn't restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying," he reportedly told JOC members.
He later retracted the comments and apologized but refused to resign, before digging himself into a deeper hole by commenting that he "doesn't speak to women much."
An online campaign calling for action against Mori has attracted more than 146,000 signatures, and Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka slammed his comments as "ignorant."
Since Mori's remarks, around 400 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers have quit, according to the Tokyo Organising Committee, which has said the number includes withdrawals for all reasons.
A total of 80,000 volunteers from Japan and overseas had been recruited for this summer's virus-postponed Games.
Games sponsor Toyota issued a statement Wednesday by its President Akio Toyoda saying: "It's very regrettable that the comments made by the leader of the organizing committee differ from the values that Toyota holds."
The controversy caused by Mori's comments comes at a time when plans to host the postponed Summer Games this July are unpopular among the Japanese public.
A Kyodo News survey conducted over the weekend found that 47.1% think the Olympics and Paralympics should be postponed again due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and 35.2% believe the games should be canceled, with just 14.5% saying they should be held as planned.
Mori, who is known for having made controversial remarks in the past, has served as chief of the Tokyo Organising Committee since its launch in January 2014.
While prime minister between 2000 and 2001, he described Japan as a "divine nation" centered on the emperor — a view that runs counter to the postwar Constitution. He retired from politics in 2012 after four decades as a lawmaker.
In 2014, he came under fire after criticizing Japanese figure skater Mao Asada's performance at the Sochi Olympics, saying she "always falls at critical times."
Mori has been heavily involved in promoting sports in Japan and played a key role in bringing the Rugby World Cup to the country in 2019, the first time Asia had held the prestigious event.
He served as president of the Japan Rugby Football Union for 10 years until his term expired in 2015, then as honorary chairman until months before the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Tokyo Organising Committee is planning to tap Saburo Kawabuchi, a former head of the Japan Football Association, as the next Tokyo Olympic chief, according to the sources.
Kawabuchi is an 84-year-old long-time sports administrator who played a large part in popularizing soccer in Japan in the 1990s, and is already involved in the games as the symbolic mayor of the Olympic Village.
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