Yoshiro Mori announced his resignation Friday as head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, finally succumbing to an onslaught of criticism triggered by sexist comments he made earlier this month, reports Ryusei Takahashi.
Mori had tapped Saburo Kawabuchi, 84, former chief of the Japan Football Association, to take his place, but government officials reportedly opposed Mori anointing his own successor. Activists welcomed the U-turn but warned that more radical reform is needed to address gender bias on such influential panels.
The head of Japan’s first pro women’s soccer circuit, the WE League, says she’s grateful to Mori for making the remarks — not that she agrees with them. “It’s really created a shockwave all over Japan,” Kikuko Okajima tells From the Spot’s Dan Orlowitz. “I really appreciate the timing of it, and the way the media is discussing it, and the way women are discussing it all over social media.”
Olympic torch relay runners, volunteers and games sponsors said Mori’s exit was inevitable given the pressure of the past week. Bloomberg columnist Daniel Moss, meanwhile, sees the resignation as proof that the cozy world of male-dominated politics that gave rise to Mori is no match for 21st-century corporate sponsorship.
How did Mori — an ex-prime minister who ended his tenure after a year with 9% public support after a string of gaffes — become such an influential figure in politics and sports anyway? Eric Johnston explains how his experience, political connections and contacts made him appear indispensable to the Tokyo 2020 cause, even as he faced mounting criticism from outside these two arenas.
One testament to Mori’s power is that while the controversy over his comments raged, there was little sign of PM Yoshihide Suga stepping in to settle the furor. With no solid power base within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Suga may have worried that moving to force Mori out could trigger a backlash from the party’s largest faction.