The head of the Olympic Games in Tokyo has been forced to apologise after sexist comments came to light.
The chairman of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympics Games Organising Committe, Yoshiro Mori, said that ‘a board with many women will take time’, according to Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. He made these comments earlier this week as part of a council meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee, as preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, set to be held this summer, get underway.
The newspaper reported that Mori said,
“Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something.”
““If I say too much, the newspapers are going to write that I said bad things, but I heard somebody say that if we are to increase the number of female board members, we have to regulate speaking time to some extent, or else we’ll never be able to finish. I am not going to say who said that.”
“We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”
The Tokyo Olympics Organising committee has 36 executive board members.
Five of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s 24 members are women, and in 2019, the committee had set itself a goal of increasing the number of female board directors to forty percent. Japan’s Olympic Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, has said that she wants to “hold thorough” discussions with Mr.Mori, but the International Olympic Committee has said that it “considered the issue closed” once Mori had apologised.
Accounts from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said that other members at the JOC meeting laughed at his comments. However, Mori has since told Mainichi newspaper, another Japanese publication, that he’s been criticised by his female family members as well as his wife for his comments.
“Last night, my wife gave me a thorough scolding. She said: 'You've said something bad again, haven't you? I'm going to have to suffer again because you've antagonised women,” he told the newspaper.
People also took to social media to make their complaints – #Moriresign was also trending on Twitter after the comments became public knowledge. Women who spoke to VICE news pointed out that it was indicative of wider sexism within the country. Izumi Uchida told VICE, “I cannot overlook the fact that a public figure would make such openly disdainful remarks.”
Mori was prime minister between 2000 and 2001, and has a history of making unfortunate remarks, particularly around the Olympics. He criticised a popular figure skater in the 2014 Winter Olympics, and also questioned whether two other athletes who were born in the US but competed for Japan, were actually good enough to be there.
Mori has since apologised, but has confirmed that he will not be resigning at a press conference to address the remarks on Thursday. At the time, he was asked why he had made the comment that women talk too much. He went on to say, “I don’t talk to women that much these days, so I don’t know.”