Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have not ruled out a future role for Yoshiro Mori, despite him quitting as the organisation’s president for making sexist remarks.
Mori caused uproar last week when he said that meetings involving women tended to “drag on”, and on Friday he resigned after accepting the remarks had “caused chaos”.
However, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto would not rule out the possibility of tapping into Mori’s “human network” in a formal or informal capacity in the five-month run-up to the Games, despite accepting that his comments were in contradiction of the Olympic Charter.
And he even hinted that members of the International Olympic Committee were keen to secure Mori’s “continued support”.
“Currently we are not discussing any position for him. On the other hand, Mr Mori at the time of bidding for the Tokyo Games and during the preparation stage made a significant contribution, that is a fact,” Muto told a press conference.
“Thanks to Mr Mori many things were made possible. Some members of the IOC have said it is desirable to receive his continued support. We need to study all those aspects to come up with the right direction. Nothing has been decided.”
Keeping Mori on, despite his comments being widely described as “inappropriate” by the IOC, Games sponsors and others, would be a controversial move to say the least.
Mori’s exit is the latest setback to befall the organisers, who have had to contend with staging a Games on a 12-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, and continued calls within Japan to further postpone or even cancel the event with infection rates in many parts of the world still very high.
Muto said a committee would be set up to identify candidates to succeed Mori as president. The committee membership would be 50 per cent women, Muto said, but he said Tokyo 2020’s male honorary president Fujio Mitarai would be its chair.
He said the process would need to be “transparent” and hoped a successor would be in place as soon as possible.
Asked for his personal view on a woman being chosen as president, he said: “In selecting the president I don’t think we need to discuss or debate gender, we are simply (looking) to choose the right person.”
There were reports that Saburo Kawabuchi, who has held senior positions at the Japanese Football Association, would be Mori’s successor.
Muto said Kawabuchi had apologised for the reports, and added: “He is not thinking of becoming the president. If he is asked, he will decline.”
Muto said Tokyo 2020 needed to act to improve the percentage of women on its council and to add female representation to its executive board at vice-president and above.
He did not say what the target percentage was, but said he wanted action to have been taken ahead of the next executive board meeting on March 22.
Mori announced his resignation prior to Friday’s executive board meeting.
“I would like to express my deepest apologies to the members of the council and executive board, as well as the entire community,” he said.
“The important thing is that the Olympic Games is to be held in July. If I am going to be (an obstacle) to the Games delivery then that is something I think we should avoid.”
The presidents of the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee, Thomas Bach and Andrew Parsons, praised the work Mori had done in helping prepare Tokyo for this summer’s Games.
Bach said: “The IOC fully respects President Mori’s decision to step down and understands his reasons for doing so.
“At the same time, we would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution to the organisation of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 over the course of the past years.
“Among his many accomplishments, President Mori helped to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared Olympic city. The IOC will continue working hand-in-hand with his successor to deliver a safe and secure Games.”
Parsons added: “In life, I’m a firm believer that out of all bad situations something good must come out of it.
“I sincerely hope that the domestic and international reaction over the last seven days can be harnessed so that society places greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion, not just in terms of gender representation, but race, sexuality, and persons with disabilities.
“This world is a wonderful and diverse place and it is important we embrace inclusion to get the best out of each and every one of us to benefit society as a whole.”