Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and former Japanese prime minister, resigned on Friday over “sexist comments.”
The New York Times reported that his resignation “followed unrelenting international criticism” of remarks made by the 83-year-old regarding “annoying” female board members.
Earlier this month, while speaking at a meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee Council, Mori said: “If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.” He also said that women are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.”
After apologizing, the International Olympic Committee “issued a statement calling gender equality ‘a fundamental principle’ for the organization and citing gains in recent years to reduce significant gaps in the number of women versus men on its leadership bodies.” The statement also concluded by “noting Mori’s apology, and saying that with it, ‘the IOC considers the issue closed.’”
After further backlash, including a survey which found that 60% of Japanese thought Mori was unqualified to lead the Games and an online petition with 150,000 signatures adding pressure, Mori resigned, saying: “As of today I will resign from the president’s position.”
“My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,” he added.
“As long as I remain in this position, it causes trouble,” he told the board. “If that is the case, it will ruin everything we’ve built up.”
Questions are now being raised regarding Mori’s replacement, with early reports indicating that “the 83-year-old Mori had picked 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, the former president of the governing body of Japanese soccer and a former player himself. He played for Japan in the 1964 Olympics,” reported CBS News. “Kawabuchi is even older than Mori and will raise the issue of why a woman wasn’t appointed.”
The report continued to reference this event’s place in the ongoing debate in Japan over gender inequality and “the absence of women in boardrooms, politics, and sports governance,” as well as in leadership roles at the Olympic organizing committee.
“For myself in selecting the president, I don’t think we need to discuss or debate gender,” executive board CEO Toshiro Muto said, according to The Associated Press. “We simply need to choose the right person.”