Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she will not attend a key meeting of Olympic high-level officials next week, as the controversy over sexist remarks made by the head of the 2020 Games’ organising committee intensifies.
Koike, who became the city’s first female governor in 2016, said she saw no merit in attending the meeting between the committee head, Yoshiro Mori, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Japan’s Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto.
“I’m not going to attend it as it wouldn’t send a positive message given the current situation,” Koike told reporters.
The controversy was sparked during a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee last week when Mori said meetings with a lot of women take too long because they talk too much.
“As the governor of the host city, I think that’s a great shame,” she said, adding that the Tokyo metropolitan government had received 1,400 complaints about Mori’s remarks, and 97 volunteers living in the city had withdrawn their offers to help during the Games, which are due to open a year late on July 23.
On Tuesday the organising committee said more than 400 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers nationwide had resigned in protest.
One of Mori’s former colleagues in the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP), Toshihiro Nikai, drew criticism after suggesting the volunteers had quit on the spur of the moment and could be replaced. Nikai, the LDP’s secretary general, said he hoped the volunteers would “change their minds once the situation settles down”.
He also said he would like to see Mori, a former prime minister, stay in his Olympic role and “work hard to meet the expectations of the people around him”.
The row, which is turning into a national conversation about out-dated attitudes towards women in some sections of Japanese society, has only intensified since Mori apologised but refused to resign late last week.
On Tuesday, female opposition MPs attended a debate in the lower house of parliament dressed in white, a gesture inspired by US congresswomen during Donald Trump’s State of the Union addresses in 2019 and 2020. Some of the Japanese MPs’ male colleagues on the opposition benches wore white roses in solidarity.
Wearing white as a form of protest goes back to the US women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century.
After initially insisting that Mori’s apology and retraction meant the matter was closed, the IOC backtracked on Tuesday, saying it regarded his remarks as “absolutely inappropriate and in contradiction to the IOC’s commitments and the reforms of its Olympic agenda 2020”.
It added: “Besides Mr Mori’s apology, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee also considers his comment to be inappropriate and has reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality.” (Source: The Guardian)