Tokyo 2020 Chief Mori Resigns As Search For New Leader Gets Under Way

Photo Courtesy: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori resigned on Friday following the furore over his remarks about women and Saburo Kawabuchi turned down the request to replace him with the Games scheduled to open in less than six months.

It leaves the organising committee searching for new leadership with Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto being considered as one of the candidates to replace Mori, according to Kyodo News.

The Olympics are due to run from 23 July-8 August with the Paralympic Games scheduled for 24 August-5 September but there is lingering uncertainty over whether they will go ahead at all because of the pandemic.

Mori had been subject to intense criticism since saying in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that meetings with female participants take a long time and that they talk too much, driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had described his comments as “absolutely inappropriate” and on Wednesday major sponsors Toyota Motor Corp released a statement in which president Akio Toyoda said: “It is truly regrettable that (Mori’s comments) are different from the values that Toyota has cherished.”

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Mori’s remarks led to more than 1,000 complaints to the  Tokyo metropolitan government and around 400 Games volunteers had withdrawn as of Monday.

Mori was left with little to option but to resign and on Friday he made an announcement at a special meeting of the Games’ organising committee.

The 83-year-old said:

“What is important is to hold the Olympics in July, so I cannot stand in the way of preparations.

“If I cause trouble by remaining on the job, our efforts will all turn to waste.”

However, Mori said he did not intend to demean women, saying the comments were “a matter of interpretation,” and blamed the media for fuelling public anger.

A source told Kyodo that Hashimoto is being considered as one of the candidates to replace Mori.

Hashimoto represented Japan in cycling at three Summer Games between 1988-1996 and in speed skating at four Winter Olympics from 1984-1994.

She said at a press conference:

“The government will make further efforts to restore trust and firmly disseminate the big concept of diversity and harmony, both domestically and internationally.”

Kawabuchi, the mayor of the Athletes’ Village, said on Thursday he had been asked to replace Mori but a day later added he wouldn’t accept the request.

In a statement from the IOC, president Thomas Bach said:

“The IOC fully respects President Mori’s decision to step down and understands his reasons for doing so.

“At the same time, we would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution to the organisation of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 over the course of the past years.

“Among his many accomplishments, President Mori helped to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared Olympic city.

“The IOC will continue working hand-in-hand with his successor to deliver safe and secure Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021.”

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Photo Courtesy: International Paralympic Committee

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons issued the following statement:

“I would like to thank Mr Mori for his seven years of service and leadership of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and wish him well for the future.

“Under Mori’s guidance, Tokyo 2020 was the best prepared Organising Committee the IPC has worked with. His team reacted strongly to the pandemic and the historic postponement of the Games last year and are now in a strong position to deliver safe and secure Games this summer. We look forward to working with his successor once appointed to continue the great partnership and co-operation we have enjoyed for many years now.

“In life, I’m a firm believer that out of all bad situations something good must come out of it.

“I sincerely hope that the domestic and international reaction over the last seven days can be harnessed so that society places greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion, not just in terms of gender representation, but race, sexuality, and persons with disabilities.

“This world is a wonderful and diverse place and it is important we embrace inclusion to get the best out of each and every one of us to benefit society as a whole.”

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