Yoshiro Mori Resigns as Tokyo Olympics President

TOKYO – Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, resigned Friday, a little over a week after starting a firestorm by suggesting that women talk too much in meetings.

His resignation followed a relentless international criticism of his sexist remarks, which further challenged Japan’s efforts to hold the postponed games amid a raging pandemic.

Mr. Mori, 83 years old and former Japanese Prime Minister, made the insulting remarks after an executive meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee on February 3. During the session, which was streamed online, he commented on efforts to increase the representation of women on the panel by expressing concerns that if women vied to speak the longest, sessions would drag on.

A backlash followed quickly and Mr Mori apologized at a press conference the next day. He said he expected to remain in his post but said he would resign if classified as an “obstacle”.

Although some senior political leaders in Japan, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, expressed disappointment at Mr. Mori’s remarks, none of them asked him to resign. In the following days, however, the pressure on Mr. Mori to criticize his comments remained undiminished.

A survey found that nearly 60 percent of Japanese believed he was no longer qualified to lead. Some Olympic sponsors have expressed concern about their continued participation in the Games, according to Japanese media reports, and the Toyota President described Mr. Mori’s comments as “really unfortunate”. Legislators in opposition parties wore suffragist white in front of parliament on Wednesday to protest his statements.

Mr Mori’s fate appeared to be turned on Tuesday evening when the International Olympic Committee, which had previously apologized for the issue as “closed”, described his remarks as “totally inappropriate”.

Mr Mori’s resignation came just over five months before the Games began on July 23. Even without the turmoil and headache of appointing a successor, the organizing committee has struggled to convince a skeptical Japanese public that things could safely go on with the Games, the pandemic continues unabated. Vaccinations in Japan are not due to start until later this month.

Last week, organizers released the first of several so-called game books to educate athletes, officials and members of the news media about the rules they must follow to protect participants in the games from the virus.

Some prominent people refused to move Mr. Mori out, saying it would jeopardize the Olympics as a whole. “If Mr. Mori resigns, the Tokyo Games will be canceled,” Yoichi Masuzoe, a former governor of Tokyo, said in an interview with Sports Hochi, a daily sports newspaper. “It shows how great his contribution is.” He added, “If he resigns now, the situation will be more confusing.”

Those who called for Mr. Mori to step down from the organizing committee said it was a small victory for women’s rights. Kanae Doi, director of Human Rights Watch in Japan, said she hoped activists could build on the moment and introduce better surveillance of sexual harassment and abuse in sport, as well as greater gender equality in general.

“The real challenge is whether the Japanese can make a legacy of this huge scandal,” said Ms. Doi. “If we fail to reform this country, and the sports community in particular, we cannot say it was a success.”

Hisako Ueno and Tariq Panja contributed to the coverage.

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