Tokyo 2020 to discuss chief's sexist remarks: reports

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 17, 2019 shows Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori speaking to the media in Tokyo on plans to move the marathon and race walks from the Japanese capital to Sapporo. – Tokyo 2020 Games chief Yoshiro Mori has apologised and said he may have to resign after sparking a sexism row by claiming women “have difficulty” speaking concisely, a Japanese daily said on February 4, 2021. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

Tokyo Olympic organisers are planning to meet this week to discuss their response to sexist comments made by their boss, reports said Tuesday after hundreds of Games volunteers quit in the ensuing furore.

Gaffe-prone Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori, 83, sparked an uproar last week when he said women speak too much in meetings.

He has since apologised but not stepped down, and the International Olympic Committee says it considers the matter closed.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee is planning a special meeting, possibly on Friday, to discuss its response as calls grow for Mori to resign, Japanese media said.

Following Mori’s remarks, 390 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers have quit, the committee said, noting that this number includes withdrawals for all reasons.

A total of 80,000 volunteers from Japan and overseas have been recruited for this summer’s virus-postponed Games.

Two people have pulled out of the torch relay and around 4,000 people made complaint calls to organisers, said public broadcaster NHK.

The row is the latest headache for organisers already battling public disquiet about the delayed Olympics, with polls showing more than 80 percent of Japanese oppose holding it this summer.

Mori apologised Thursday and said he wished to retract his remarks — but then became defensive when questioned, insisting he had heard complaints that women speak at length.

An online campaign calling for action against Mori has attracted more than 140,000 signatures, while tennis superstar Naomi Osaka slammed his comments as “ignorant”.

Top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that organisers should try and convince volunteers to return.

“It is important that the organising committee gives a careful explanation to volunteers,” he said, days after a Tokyo 2020 statement reaffirmed a commitment to gender equality and diversity.

But ruling-party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai reportedly said Monday that volunteers “would change their mind when things calm down” — sparking further ire online and from other politicians.

“If they really want to quit, we’ll need to recruit new ones,” he said, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Some Olympic sponsors have told organisers they received complaints and boycott threats over Mori’s comments, the Mainichi Shimbun daily reported.

“We would like to refrain from ‘performing’ with president Mori” to promote products, the newspaper quoted one anonymous company official as saying.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the ruling party’s coalition partner Komeito, called Mori’s comments “extremely inappropriate and regrettable”.

“It’s true many volunteers are quitting and president Mori needs to seriously reflect (on his remarks) that caused such ripples,” he said.