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Tokyo Olympic committee to meet over Yoshiro Mori comments as volunteers quit

Meeting could be held as early as Friday, although Nikkan Sports reported that calls for Mori to resign are unlikely

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori speaks at a news conference in Tokyo on February 4. Reuters
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori speaks at a news conference in Tokyo on February 4. Reuters

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organising Committee is set to convene a special board meeting this week as the outcry over committee president Yoshiro Mori's sexist comments intensified, public broadcaster NHK reported Tuesday.

The meeting could be held as early as Friday, although Nikkan Sports reported that calls for Mori to resign are unlikely but that the head of the Tokyo Games is likely to face criticism over his comments.

Mori, 83, has come under fire for saying last week that meetings with female participants take a long time, and they "get competitive" with each other. He apologised and retracted his comments, but public outrage shows no sign of dissipating.

Around 440 Games volunteers have quit over Mori's remarks while local organisers have received more than 5,500 complaints, according to local media. In a statement, the International Olympic Committee said Mori's statements were "absolutely inappropriate".

"We are taking this very seriously," Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday when asked about the resignation of the volunteers.

Daichi Oyama, 28, who withdrew from volunteering because of coronavirus concerns, said of Mori: "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 80,000 people are signed up to help the Games and many are 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

"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 who says he has no plans to quit as a Games volunteer.

"Mori is Mori, I'm not his volunteer. I'm a volunteer working to carry out the Tokyo Olympics," she said.

An online petition seeking action against Mori, who served as Japanese Prime Minister from 2000-01, has attracted 140,000 signatures so far.

An editorial on Tuesday in the daily Mainichi said he should resign, saying "this is not an issue that can be closed with a retraction or an apology".

Sponsors have also distanced themselves. Nippon Life Insurance Company said it was "disappointed" with the remarks and had 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 "social media is terrifying" given how rapidly comments are shared and spread online.

Asked to clarify what he meant, Nakanishi said it was customary in Japan to differentiate between men and women but that thinking is outdated, according to TV Asahi.

But the comment was trending on social media, with people taking to Twitter express frustration 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.

Published: February 9, 2021 04:11 PM

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