The presidency of the organizing committee of the Tokyo Olympics takes a radical turn: from an octogenarian man to a 56-year-old woman. After the resignation last Friday of Yoshiro Mori, 83, due to comments considered sexist, the Minister of the Olympics, Seiko Hashimoto, almost thirty years younger than him, will be the one to occupy the position. Hashimoto will have just five months – the Games are scheduled between July 23 and August 8 – to get everything ready and launch a competition marked by the coronavirus and the controversy of its predecessor .
The minister, one of the two women Portfolio managers in Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's cabinet, sounded last week as a possible candidate. According to the Kyodo news agency, he has already accepted the position. Aside from her political career, Hashimoto has been an Olympian seven times; four in the speed skating category at the Winter Games – winning the bronze medal in France in 1992 – and three in the track cycling category at the Summer Games.
Although Hashimoto had said on multiple occasions that she was not interested in leaving his current position to replace Mori, has finally ended up accepting, publishes The Japan Times newspaper. Mori, 83, prime minister of Japan between 2000 and 2001, made a controversial statement on February 3, criticizing that executive meetings with many women take too long.
“When you increase the number of women, if your time speaking is not limited, they have difficulty finishing, which is very annoying. The joints are very long. They love to compete against each other ”, she declared in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee in which the increase of the female quota was being debated – there are only five women among its 24 members; and in the directive of the organizing committee chaired by Mori, only seven out of 36-, which provoked a torrent of criticism. Although he later retracted his comments and apologized ("I am deeply sorry," he said), he initially refused to resign, only to add to the controversy by claiming that he himself does not speak much to women. "Lately I don't listen to them much …", he expressed.
Mori's comments triggered criticism inside and outside the country, with companies like Toyota, sponsor of the Games, condemning the former prime minister's comments. Despite his initial reluctance, Mori ended up resigning last Friday, February 12. After his retirement, a panel made up of members of the organizing committee began the process to search for candidates to replace him, based on five criteria: that the person chosen had a deep knowledge of the Games; understand the Olympic principles of gender equality, inclusion and diversity; extensive work experience; knowledge of the Tokyo Games; and management skills.
Mori had chosen 84-year-old former head of the Japan Football Association Saburo Kawabuchi as his successor, but the former footballer declined to fill the post on the same Friday. His candidacy did not have the support of the organizers as he was Mori's candidate and repeats the pattern of an octogenarian male for the position, says The Japan Times .
After Kawabuchi, the first name that came out with the possibility of succeeding Mori was Hashimoto's. Other candidates were former judo player Yasuhiro Yamashita, president of the Japan Olympic Committee, and Mikako Kotani, Olympic medalist and executive member of the organizing body of the Games.
With the election of Hashimoto, the organization of the Games is expected, already delayed since last year, proceed without more controversy than those derived from the coronavirus pandemic. Its celebration this July faces high levels of unpopularity in Japan. According to a survey by the Kyodo agency, 47.1% of those interviewed believe that they should be postponed again due to the pandemic. 32.5% believe that they should be canceled completely and only 14.5% believe that they should be held on the scheduled date.