The head of Tokyo’s Olympic and Paralympic Games organising committee has quit over remarks he made about women.
Yoshiro Mori has stood down as the organisation’s president 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,” Mori, whose words were translated into English, said.
“I will be resigning from the president’s position.”
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, has been 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.
His 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.
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,” Mori 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.”
Bach said: “The IOC fully respects President Mori’s decision to step down and understands his reasons for doing so.
“At the same time, we would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution to the organisation of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 over the course of the past years.
“Among his many accomplishments, President Mori helped to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared Olympic city. The IOC will continue working hand-in-hand with his successor to deliver a safe and secure Games.”
Mori said the board would now decide who should be put in place as his successor.
Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympics Committee, wished Mori well for the future and praised the Games organisers for their initial preparations and their reaction to the pandemic.
“In life, I’m a firm believer that out of all bad situations something good must come out of it,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that the domestic and international reaction over the last seven days can be harnessed so that society places greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion, not just in terms of gender representation, but race, sexuality, and persons with disabilities.
“This world is a wonderful and diverse place and it is important we embrace inclusion to get the best out of each and every one of us to benefit society as a whole.”
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