The president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee has said he would not resign despite pressure to do so after making derogatory comments about women.
The controversy surrounding Yoshiro Mori, the gaffe-prone former Japanese prime minister, is another problem facing the postponed Olympics as organisers try to pull off the games in the midst of a pandemic. They are scheduled to open on July 23.
“I am not thinking to resign,” Mr Mori said. “I have been working hard and helped devotedly for seven years. I will not be stepping down.”
In an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors earlier in the week, Mr Mori was reported by the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun as saying women talk too much in meetings.
His comments have created a storm in Japan, where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in board rooms.
“The statement made at the Japan Olympic Committee was an inappropriate expression, contrary to the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” Mr Mori said. “I am deeply remorseful. I would like to withdraw the statement. I would like to apologise for any unpleasant feelings.”
Mr Mori’s comment came when he was asked about the presence of few women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
“If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments,” he said. “I’m not saying who that is.”
In defending Mr Mori, the IOC noted its support for gender equality as “one of the key pillars” of Olympic values, including an increase in the number of women on its own executive board to 33% with five of 15 members.
“President Mori has apologised for his comments today. With this, the IOC considers the issue closed,” the Olympic body said.
The Tokyo Olympics are already swamped with problems.
About 80% of Japanese in polls say the games should be postponed or cancelled. They also have spoken out on rising costs that may total more than 25 billion dollars.