The head of the organising committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Yoshiro Mori, made sexist remarks, inviting calls for his resignation while leaving the image of the global event — already reeling after the postponement due to Covid-19 — tarnished.
Mori, 83, set off a social media storm saying that meetings often got extended because ‘women talked too much’. He made the sexist remark during a meeting with the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) this week.
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“Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something…,” said Mori, talking about his time as chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union. “I heard somebody say that if we are to increase the number of female board members, we have to regulate speaking time to some extent, or else we’ll never be able to finish…
“We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place,” he added.
Even as calls for his resignation gathered volume both online and offline, Mori apologised through a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday. He, however, did not resign even though speculation was rife that he would.
Later, Mori also apologised in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, his statement to the newspaper betraying that the former premier, who has been prone to gaffes right through his public career, has not fully grasped the gravity of the situation.
“My wife was angry with me last night,” he told Mainichi Shumbun. “She said, ‘You’ve gone and said something stupid again. You make an enemy of women and I’m the one who has to suffer.’”
Osaka Slams ‘Ignorant’ Comments
On Saturday, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, one of the leading faces of the Games, slammed the "ignorant" remarks from Mori.
"I feel like that was a really ignorant statement to make," said Osaka. "I think that someone that makes comments like that, they need to have more knowledge on the thing that they're talking about."
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She added: "I also want to hear the reasoning behind those comments. I also want to hear the perspective of everyone else that surrounds him."
Olympic medallists and Japanese sports officials and Games volunteers lambasted Mori, while Tokyo's governor, Yuriko Koike, said she was left "speechless" by the remarks.
“The mission of the metropolis and the Organising Committee is to prepare for a safe and secure Games, and we are facing a major issue,” Koike was quoted by Reuters. I myself was struck speechless by his comments, which should not have been made.”
However, despite the uproar, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Thursday it considered the issue "closed" after Mori's apology.
Gender equality is a raging issue in Japan, which ranks poorly in the metric. The country is ranked 121st out of 153 nations surveyed in the World Economic Forum's 2020 global gender gap report. The JOC has only five women on its 24-member Executive Board, while the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board has seven.
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