Tokyo Olympics president resigns after sexist comments, backlash

·3 min read
Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori announces his resignation at a meeting with council and executive board members at the committee headquarters in Tokyo on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori resigned for his sexist remarks. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool Photo via AP)
Olympic organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori announces his resignation at a meeting with council and executive board members at the committee headquarters in Tokyo on Friday. Mori resigned because of his sexist remarks. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool Photo via AP)

Yoshiro Mori has resigned as president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee in the wake of sexist comments he made earlier this month.

Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, announced the decision at a Friday executive board meeting, nine days after the comments and five months before the Games are scheduled to begin.

Mori, who'd led the organizing committee since 2014, made the comments to the Japanese Olympic Committee on Feb. 3. He said that board meetings with too many women "take so much time."

“Women have a strong sense of rivalry," he said. "If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something.”

The remarks elicited backlash domestically and internationally. Mori initially apologized, saying he was "deeply remorseful" and acknowledging that the comments were "inappropriate," but he refused to step down. His resistance sparked more backlash. Hundreds of Olympic volunteers and at least two torch bearers resigned in protest, and an online petition calling for Mori's resignation drew 150,000 signatures.

Mori caved to the pressure a week later. "As of today I will resign from the president's position," he said to open a Friday executive board and council meeting.

[Read more: Mori's resignation should not have taken this long]

Mori reiterated his regret several times. "My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos," he said. "As long as I remain in this position, it causes trouble. ... It will ruin everything we've built up."

His resignation leaves the presidency temporarily vacant. No replacement was named on Friday.

It's unclear if Mori will retain any lesser, behind-the-scenes role in organizing the rescheduled Games – which already present a logistical nightmare with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing. Some 80% of the Japanese public opposes hosting the Olympics this summer. In fact, protesters gathered outside Friday's board meeting to call for the cancellation of the Games.

Demonstrators hold placards to protest against hosting the planned Tokyo 2020 Olympic games near a building where Yoshiro Mori was to announce his resignation as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee in Tokyo on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Mori resigned Friday, following sexist comments implying women talk too much. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)
Demonstrators hold placards to protest against hosting the planned Tokyo 2020 Olympic games near a building where Yoshiro Mori was to announce his resignation as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee in Tokyo on Friday. Mori resigned following sexist comments implying women talk too much. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Toshiro Muto, the organizing committee's CEO, was pressed on whether the new president should or would be a woman. (Mori's initial comments had come in response to calls for more gender equity in Japanese Olympic leadership positions. Board members and executives are overwhelmingly men.)

"For myself in selecting the president, I don't think we need to discuss or debate gender," Muto said. "We simply need to choose the right person."

The Games are scheduled to begin July 23.

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