Tokyo, February 9
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organising Committee is set to convene a special board meeting as early as Friday after the outcry over committee president Yoshiro Mori’s sexist comments, public broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday.
There are no plans to discuss Mori’s resignation at the meeting but he could face a barrage of criticism over his comments, Nikkan Sports said in a separate report.
Mori has come under fire for saying last week that meetings with female participants take a long time, adding that they “get competitive” with each other. He apologised and retracted his comments, but the public’s outrage appears far from assuaged.
Following Mori’s remarks, about 440 Games volunteers have quit and local organisers have received more than 5,500 complaints, according to local media.
“We are taking this very seriously,” said Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto on Tuesday morning when asked about the resignation of the volunteers.
Daichi Oyama (28), who withdrew from volunteering because of coronavirus concerns, said of Mori that “if every time he says something things get worse, he should quit….” “It wasn’t just Japanese news, all the world heard what he said and there’s opposition being raised. It’s a very embarrassing thing for Japan,” he said.
But some 80,000 people are signed up to help the Summer Games, and many others are still staying on.
“That was definitely a gaffe, but Mori is old…and I think that people of that age have a tendency to look down on women, it’s a factor of their age,” said Misako Yoshizawa (70), who teaches English part-time in Saitama prefecture and whose plans to volunteer haven’t changed despite the outcry.
“Mori is Mori, I’m not his volunteer. I’m a volunteer working to carry out the Tokyo Olympics,” she added.
An online petition seeking action against Mori has garnered 1,40,000 signatures so far, and an editorial published on Tuesday in the daily Mainichi has called on Mori to resign.
“This is not an issue that can be closed with a retraction or an apology” the editorial read.
Sponsors have also distanced themselves. Insurance company Nippon Life Insurance Company told the daily Asahi that they were “disappointed” with the remarks, and have made that clear to the organising committee.
Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the influential business lobby Keidanren, initially refrained from commenting but later said: “I feel that that’s what some people are really thinking in Japan” and that “social media is terrifying” given how rapidly comments are shared and spread online.
When asked to clarify what he meant, Nakanishi said it was customary in Japan to differentiate between men and women but that thinking was outdated, according to TV Asahi.
But the comment was trending on social media by Monday morning, with people taking to Twitter express frustrations over Nakanishi’s comments as well.
“He made a sweeping statement about Japan but I think this is what the chairman himself is thinking. He’s the same as president Mori in his inability to listen to his critics,” said one Twitter user. Reuters