The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee replaced Yoshiro Mori as president Thursday after the 83-year-old former Japanese prime minister made inappropriate comments about women, saying they talk too much in meetings. The committee chose Seiko Hashimoto for the role, a female politician who is a former speed skater and cyclist and has appeared in seven Olympic games.
ESPN reported Hashimoto’s name, “Seiko” is from the word “Seika,” which translates to “Olympic flame” in English. The 56-year-old bronze medalist also has a background working towards gender equality and empowering women in Japan.
Japan has the largest gender gap among advanced economies, 121st out of 153 countries, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.
Japan-born tennis player Naomi Osaka, who won against Serena Williams at the Australian Open on Thursday, spoke highly of the Olympic committee’s decision, saying:
I think for me, what it means is that there’s a lot of things I think people used to accept the things that used to be said, but you’re seeing the newer generation not tolerate a lot of things. … I feel like it’s really good because you’re pushing forward, barriers are being broken down, especially for females. We’ve had to fight for so many things just to be equal. Even in a lot of things we still aren’t equal. Yeah, I thought that was a good thing.
A Kyodo News survey found about 80% of Japanese want the Olympics canceled or postponed. High costs, as well as fears of spreading the coronavirus, are the main reasons given in the poll.
Mori, allegedly said to members of the Olympic committee that “board of directors meetings with many women take a lot of time.”
“When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” he continued. “Women are competitive. … When one person raises a hand, others think they need to speak up as well. That’s why everyone speaks.”
Mori walked back his comments during a press release, but told reporters, “I don’t listen to women that much lately, so I don’t know.”
On Thursday, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the ruling conservative party, said it would consider allowing women to attend top-level party meetings, but not allow them to talk.