On Feb. 12, Yoshiro Mori resigned as the Chief of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee after making sexist comments regarding women talking too much in meetings.
The former Prime Minister of Japan was under fire on Feb. 3 for stating his opinion on the committee’s policy to increase female members of sports organizations’ to 40% or more, according to The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers.
“A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time,” Mori said. “Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak, too. That is why they all end up making comments.”
Although Mori apologized for his remarks at a press conference the following day, many followers used social media to demand his resignation, according to ABC News.
“It was an inappropriate remark that went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” Mori said. “I deeply regret it and would like to sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”
Mori considered some candidates for his replacement as Chief of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, such as Seiko Hashimoto, the current government Olympic minister and a bronze medalist in speed skating in the 1992 Albertville Games.
According to ESPN, Mori is considering Saburo Kawabuchi, the 84-year-old former head of the governing body of Japanese Soccer. However, the news sparked outrage as the public argued that replacing an old man with another older man would not help the situation.
Chief executive officer of the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee, Toshiro Muto, held a press conference on Friday night, stating that Kawabuchi is “not thinking of becoming President, even if he is asked, he will decline.”
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, the country’s gender gap is the largest among first-world countries. Ranking Japan 121 out of 153 countries, women make up 5.3% of board members of listed companies and only 10% of parliamentarians, one of the lowest representations of female political power in the world.
In response to Mori’s comments, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan organized a protest where female politicians wore white jackets with white roses on their lapels as a homage to the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., according to the Japan Times. Their male colleagues also showed solidarity by wearing white roses.
A petition was also posted on change.org with approximately 150,000 signatures, demanding that women become at least 40% of the members on “all executive board committees under the purview of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.” These protestors also called on the committee to take preventative measures by adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards gender discrimination, and to “properly address Chairman Mori’s recent behavior.”
While Mori’s resignation is a setback that the organizers have to tackle, the Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympics a month late, according to CBS News. But with COVID-19 cases rising in Japan, many are skeptical that the Summer Games can be pulled off.
“I think at this point it has to be canceled,” Political Science Professor at Sophia University Koichi Nakana said to CBS News. “We are talking about the pandemic after all, so it’s not just Japan’s issue. The whole of humanity is still fighting against the coronavirus and we need to get the priority right […] the Japanese people need real attention from the government to get its priority right and stop being in denial.”
The author of the petition and a women’s rights activist, Kazuko Fukuda hopes that “they [the authorities] choose through the right process and choose a person who really understands the Olympic ideals of human rights and equality.”