Japan’s Olympic Games faced a “major issue” after the head of the local organising committee Yoshiro Mori made sexist remarks, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike said on Friday, sending a clear signal the controversy risked tarnishing the global event.
What Mori said
Yoshiro Mori, the 83-year-old former Japanese Prime Minister, set off a social media storm by saying that women talked too much, in remarks made in a meeting with the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) this week.
Talking about his time as chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union, Mori said: “Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something… I heard somebody say that if we are to increase the number of female board members, we have to regulate speaking time to some extent, or else we’ll never be able to finish…”
Mori added: “We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”
He later apologised at a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday, but the Tokyo 2020 President stopped short of offering his resignation. Mori also apologised in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. “My wife was angry with me last night,” he told the newspaper. “She said, ‘You’ve gone and said something stupid again. You make an enemy of women and I’m the one who has to suffer.’”
“Mori, please resign” trended on Twitter in Japan shortly after the comments. Former judo silver medallist Noriko Mizoguchi posted the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics on social media and said any form of harassment should be rejected.
On Friday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told Reuters: “The mission of the metropolis and the Organising Committee is to prepare for a safe and secure Games, and we are facing a major issue. I myself was struck speechless by his comments, which should not have been made.”
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 global gender gap report, Japan ranks 121 out of 153 nations and has been criticised for its gender equality efforts. The JOC meanwhile has only five women on its 24-member Executive Board, while the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board has seven.
The BBC, in a profile dating back to 2000, said Mori was described in political circles as having the “the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark”. The Liberal Democratic Party veteran was elected president in 2000 after predecessor Keizo Obuchi suffered a stroke.
The weeks leading to his ascendancy saw Mori joke about the 1969 election — “When I was greeting farmers from my car, they all went into their homes. I felt like I had AIDS” — and describe the Y2K phenomenon in the US as “when there is a blackout, the murderers always come out. It’s that type of society.”
Mori also filed a libel suit against a Japanese magazine after it published photographs of him with an alleged former member of a Yakuza (crime syndicate), according to the BBC.
The biggest gaffe, as reported in multiple publications, came at a meeting of Shinto (pre-war state religion) followers in Tokyo in May 2000, when Mori described Japan as “a divine nation with the Emperor at its centre.”