Yoshiro Mori has resigned as president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee over his sexist remarks about women which sparked a fierce backlash and led to deafening calls for him to quit.
The 83-year-old announced his resignation during a special meeting with Tokyo 2020 Council and Executive Board members on Friday.
“As of today I will resign from the president’s position,” said Mori, who was appointed in 2014, just months after Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics.
“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.”
While admitting that his “inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos”, the former Japanese Prime Minister insisted that he had “no intention of neglecting women”.
The Tokyo 2020 board now needs to find Mori’s successor with less than six months to the opening ceremony of the rescheduled Olympic Games. His replacement is expected to be confirmed later on Friday.
Saburo Kawabuchi, a former president of the Japan Football Association and a councillor of the committee, had revealed to reporters on Thursday he was asked by Mori to take over as the head of the committee.
But reports on Friday have claimed the 84-year-old seemed to be withdrawing his interest after the Japanese media pointed out there were qualified women who could fill the job.
Mori’s remarks that women board members talked too much and have a “strong sense of competition” have put the spotlight on Japan’s gender gap, which is “by far the largest among all advanced economies”, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report. Japan is ranked 121 out of 153 countries.
His comments, made in reference to the JOC’s plan to increase the number of women on its board, were reported by Asahi Shimbun newspaper on February 3. In his roughly 40-minute speech Mori also mentioned that the seven women on the 35-member board of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee “understand their place”. He apologised the following day and accepted that his words were against the Olympic spirit, but declined to resign.
His resignation, however, eventually seemed inevitable after more than a week of non-stop pressure from many quarters.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday that a replacement for the outgoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games president should be chosen in a transparent and rules-based way.
Suga told reporters that he expected to see a new structure quickly at the Games organizing committee to reassure the Japanese public and people around the world, and the government would work to make the Olympics safe .