Less than six months before the Tokyo Olympics , the president of its organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, announced his resignation this Friday after the controversy arose inside and outside the country after making comments considered sexist. Although he initially said he would not resign, mounting pressure from multiple fronts has ultimately forced him to do so. With no named successor yet, his departure comes as the celebration of the Games, postponed since last year and expected to begin in July, faces the risk that the third wave of coronavirus in Japan will not be controlled by then. The fall from grace of the 83-year-old Mori, who was prime minister of Japan between 2000 and 2001, has happened in nine days. On February 3, she criticized that executive meetings with many women take too long. "When you increase the number of women, if their time to speak is not limited, they have difficulty finishing, which is very annoying," she declared at a meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee – where there are only five women among its 24 members. provoking a torrent of criticism. Although he later retracted his comments and apologized, he initially refused to resign, only to increase the controversy by assuring that he himself does not speak much to women
The IOC condemns the sexist comments of the Tokyo 2020 organizer
The Japanese minister himself , Yoshihide Suga, said the next day that those comments "shouldn't have been made." And on February 5, during a parliamentary session, he emphasized that what Mori said "completely collides with gender equality, a fundamental principle of the Olympics."
Suga raised the tone of his response as the days passed, Although he avoided answering whether Mori should stay or leave as head of the Olympics, something that, he said, was not in his power to decide. Other senior officials of the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, to which Mori also belongs, were in favor of his staying, claiming that it would be "difficult to replace him," says the Japanese media Nikkei.
However, a source close to the prime minister had warned that it would not be easy for Mori to overcome the criticisms, adding that they also came from outside the country. Although at first the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had closed the matter after Mori's apology, as the controversy worsened, it described the comments as "completely inappropriate."
Last Wednesday, the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, advanced that he would not attend a meeting scheduled for February 17 with the aim of discussing the preparations for the Games, and that he would be attended by Mori and the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, because at this time the discussions “could not lead to anything positive. ”
An online campaign calling for action against Mori has garnered more than 146,000 signatures, with Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka calling the former prime minister's comments“ ignorant ”. Since it took place, some 400 volunteers from the Games have resigned, according to the Tokyo Organizing Committee. In total, more than 80,000 volunteers have been signed, from Japan and abroad.
Criticism has also come from the business community; Japanese automaker Toyota, sponsor of the Games, released a statement Wednesday stating that "the organizing committee leader's comments differ from the values supported by Toyota."
Mori's resignation comes at a delicate moment, when the The intention to hold the Games 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 altogether and only 14.5% consider that they should be held on the scheduled date.
The figure of Mori has been surrounded by controversy for his politically incorrect comments. When he was prime minister, he described Japan as a "divine nation" centered on the figure of the emperor, a vision contrary to the postwar spirit. He retired from politics in 2012, after four decades as a member of parliament, and in January 2014 he served as head of the Tokyo Games Organizing Committee. That same year, he was again in the eye of the hurricane after criticizing that the Japanese figure skater Mao Asada "always falls at the most critical moment", for her performance at the Sochi Games.
A recognized figure in the field of promoting sporting events, Mori was also responsible for the Rugby World Cup being held in his country in 2019, the first time it had happened in Asia. He served as president of the Japan Rugby Union for ten years. Although 84-year-old former head of the Japan Football Association Saburo Kawabuchi sounded like a possible replacement for Mori, the former footballer has declined to hold the post, according to Nikkei.