Yoshiro Mori has resigned as president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee over his sexist remarks about women which sparked a fierce backlash and led to deafening calls for him to quit.
The 83-year-old announced his resignation during a special meeting with Tokyo 2020 Council and Executive Board members, yesterday.
“As of today (yesterday) I will resign from the president’s position,” said Mori, who was appointed in 2014, just months after Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics.
“What is important is to hold the Olympics in July, so I cannot stand in the way of preparations. If I cause trouble by remaining on the job, our efforts will all turn to waste.”
While admitting that his “inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos”, the former Japanese Prime Minister insisted that he had “no intention of neglecting women”.
The Tokyo 2020 board now needs to find Mori’s successor with less than six months to the opening ceremony of the rescheduled Olympic Games. A replacement would be chosen “as soon as possible”
But reports on Friday claimed the 84-year-old withdrew his candidacy as it did not go down well with many, with the Japanese media pointing out there were qualified women who could fill the job.
Tokyo 2020 has promised to ensure that the appointment of a successor is done in a “swift and transparent manner in order to limit the impact on our preparation for the Games”. Organisers also announced plans to establish a gender equality promotion team and increase the number of female members of the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken note of Mori’s decision to step down.
“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,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
“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 safe and secure Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021.”
The IOC, which had initially said the case was closed after Mori apologised, issued a fresh statement on Tuesday describing his comments as “absolutely inappropriate”.
Olympic sponsors such as Toyota have also publicly criticised Mori for his sexist remarks.