Convictions increased on Friday in Japan after sexist remarks made by the president of the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Yoshiro Mori, who apologized the day before, while excluding resigning. On Wednesday, the 83-year-old former prime minister complained that “boards of directors with a lot of women take a long time, because they have difficulty finishing their speeches, which is annoying”.
Thursday, Yoshiro Mori apologized at a press conference during which he appeared on the defensive, saying he wanted to withdraw his words while awkwardly explaining that he did not speak “often with women lately”. But his apologies did not calm the anger of certain political and sports leaders, as well as that of sportsmen and volunteers involved in the preparation of the Olympics.
“I remained silent, because such words should not be allowed,” said Friday, the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, quoted by the Kyodo agency. “The mission of the city and the organizing committee is to prepare for safe and secure Games, and we are facing a major problem,” said Yuriko Koike, one of the few leading Japanese women politicians. “If he believes that withdrawing his statements is enough, he does not care about people”, judged, for his part, the elected Communist in Parliament Chizuko Takahashi on Twitter.
Words “contrary to the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”
The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, considered that Yoshiro Mori’s comments were inappropriate and “contrary to the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”, without however calling for his resignation, according to local media. “There is no point in removing words that have already been spoken,” tweeted footballer Shiho Shimoyamada, Japan’s first openly gay professional sportswoman, adding, “The same will happen again if you don’t admit your prejudices and don’t take measures to remedy it. ”
Several petitions have also been launched since Thursday on the Change.org site, including one calling for measures to prevent such an incident from happening again, which collected more than 57,000 signatures on Friday afternoon. The indignation has crossed the Japanese borders, the former Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, member of the Athletes’ Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), announcing to say two words to Yoshiro Mori.
According to Japanese media, Tokyo city hall has received complaints from Games volunteers, postponed last year because of the pandemic and which are due to open in less than six months. Hearing these words “really discouraged me”, confided a 54-year-old volunteer daily. Mainichi, saying he was not convinced by the apology of the boss of Tokyo 2020.
This controversy is a new thorn in the side of the organizers of the Games, while more than 80% of the Japanese population is opposed to their holding this summer because of health concerns, according to several polls. Yoshiro Mori, known for his oddities, had already caused a controversy at the beginning of the week by claiming that the Tokyo Olympics would be held this summer, whatever happens and whatever the evolution of the health crisis in the world.
A member of the board of directors of the Japanese rugby federation, of which he is the former president, felt personally targeted by his comments about women. When Yoshiro Mori was in charge, “I was the only woman,” Yuko Inazawa told the daily Asahi. “I didn’t know then that he thought my opinions were a nuisance. Despite the controversy, the IOC gave its support Thursday to Yoshiro Mori and considered that after his apologies the case was closed.