The head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Yoshiro Mori has resigned after becoming embroiled in a sexism row when he said women ‘talk too much’.
Yoshiro Mori has stood down as the president of Tokyo’s Olympic and Paralympic Games organising committee after suggesting meetings involving females tended to drag on.
The news was confirmed ahead of a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting on Friday.
“My inappropriate statement has caused a lot of chaos,” said Mori, whose words were translated into English.
“I will be resigning from the president’s position.”
Mori added: “I would like to express my deepest apologies to the members of the council and executive board, as well as the entire community.
“The important thing is that the Olympic Games is to be held in July. If I am going to be (an obstacle) to the Games delivery then that is something I think we should avoid.”
Mori’s comments had been criticised by Games sponsor Toyota, among others.
On Tuesday, a group of female Japanese politicians wore white as a mark of protest against the 83-year-old’s remarks.
Mori said he had always been an advocate of women.
“I didn’t mean for (my remarks) to be neglecting women but I guess it was broadcasted in that way,” he said.
“I actually worked a lot to allow women to be able to ‘voice out’, even more than men.
“There were times when the females were not voicing out but I had appointed a couple of women so I can give them an environment and an opportunity to state whatever it is they wanted to say.”
Mori said he had spoken for an hour via teleconference with Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, since making the controversial remarks.
“He gave me a lot of words of encouragement and he also praised me for being able to bring Tokyo 2020 to this point in time,” Mori said.
“He expressed his respect for the efforts that I have made.
“We need to make sure the Games are fully delivered and if my presence is going to be an obstacle … somebody mentioned the old people should resign, there were some people who used these words.
“The elderly have worked hard to support society and it is quite frustrating when the elderly are neglected in that way by using the ‘old guy’ phrase.”
Mori said the board would now decide who should be put in place as his successor.
Saburo Kawabuchi, a former chair of the Japanese Football Association and one of the key figures in the foundation of its professional football competition the J.League, is reported to have been lined up as Mori’s replacement according to the Kyodo news agency.
Earlier this week the International Olympic Committee released a statement saying Mori’s comments were “inappropriate” but stopped short of calling for him to quit.
The Fuji News Network reported on Thursday that Mori was set to step down.
In a tweet, Japan’s Mainichi newspaper said: “Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, took responsibility for making statements that looked down on women and informed others of his intention to resign.”
Responding to the news on Twitter, Mizuho Fukushima, head of Japan’s opposition social democratic party said: “This is the result of many, many women raising their voices.
“Of course this doesn’t resolve the problem. We need to create a society of gender equality in all places.”
Kenji Kimihara, marathon silver medallist at the 1968 Olympics told Reuters: “That was a problematic comment of very grave nature.
“I think resignation would set things straight and help realise the Tokyo Games.”
The comments, made at a Japanese Olympic Committee board meeting in the first week of February, set off a firestorm at home and abroad in the latest obstacle to holding the 2020 Summer Games, already postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Mori later tried to say sorry at a hastily called news conference, but only added fuel to the Olympic flames.
When pressed on whether he really thought women talked too much, he replied: “I don’t listen to women that much lately so I don’t know”.
The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan within minutes.
Mori’s exit is the latest setback for the Games organisers, who have been beset by problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games were due to take place last summer but were delayed by 12 months.
Covid-19 cases remain high in many areas of the world with the vaccine rollout only in its early stages, yet there is no suggestion of a second postponement or cancellation despite the staging of the Games remaining unpopular among Tokyo residents.