Japanese ex-PM apologises for remarks on women as calls for resignation cast further shadow over delayed sporting event.
Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee, is set to step down over sexist remarks he made that women talked too much, the Fuji News Network reported on Thursday.
Other key Japanese media outlets also confirmed the report and Mainichi newspaper said Mori had told officials of his plan to announce his resignation at a meeting on Friday.
Mori was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the organising committee declined to comment.
The TBS broadcaster reported that the former Japan Football Association president and mayor of the Olympics village, Saburo Kawabuchi, would replace Mori.
Mori, the 83-year-old former prime minister, made the sexist comments at a Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board of trustees meeting in early February.
“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori was quoted as saying, according to the Asahi report.
The comments set off a firestorm at home and abroad adding to the problems surrounding the 2020 Summer Games, already postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a hastily called news conference on February 4, Mori retracted his remarks and said they were “inappropriate” and against the Olympic spirit but he declined to resign.
He offered an apology and acknowledged that his remark was “thoughtless” but calls for his resignation or for him to be sacked only increased.
A former prime minister whose tenure was marred by gaffes and blunders, Mori’s remarks drew sharp condemnation on social media and in parliament, with opposition legislators also demanding his resignation.
On Tuesday, female opposition party legislators attended the Lower House session clad in white to protest against Mori’s actions. The all-white outfits symbolise women’s fight for equality in Japan.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto, the deputy leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, denounced the ruling party for its inaction on Mori’s case.
“The administration is showing its blatant contempt for women,” she was quoted by public service broadcaster NHK as saying. She said a country without gender equality could not be considered a democracy.
Male legislators from the opposition showed their solidarity by placing white roses in their suit pockets.
Anger over Mori’s comments is likely to further alienate a Japanese public that has grown weary of Tokyo’s attempts to hold the Games during a pandemic.
Nearly 80 percent of the Japanese public opposes holding the Olympics as scheduled in July, according to the most recent poll.