Yoshiro Mori. Picture: KIM KYUNG-HOON
Yoshiro Mori. Picture: KIM KYUNG-HOON

Tokyo — Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori is expected to resign on Friday over sexist comments, and his anointed successor has reportedly turned down the job after public criticism, less than six months before the troubled Games are scheduled to start.

Mori, 83, had tapped 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, who serves as the mayor of the Olympic Village. to take over the top position, Kawabuchi told reporters. But the choice prompted questions about whether there was no a better alternative than another older, male, and local media said Kawabuchi later turned down the job.

Local broadcaster Fuji News Network (FNN) reported that the government would seek to block the nomination of Kawabuchi.

“We can’t give the impression that things have changed unless we install a woman or see a generational shift,” FNN cited a government source as saying.

The Mori controversy has done “serious reputational damage” to the Tokyo Olympics, and the selection of Kawabuchi is far short of restoring the trust, said one source involved in the Olympics. The source, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said many officials wanted to have a woman to replace Mori’s position.

Local media said the country’s Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto, was being considered as a possible candidate.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had asked Mori if there was either a younger or a female candidate to succeed, but Mori recommended Kawabuchi, Kawabuchi said.

Katsunobu Kato, the top government spokesperson, said he was not aware of Suga’s conversation with Mori.

The Tokyo Olympics organising committee declined to comment on media reports over Mori and Kawabuchi. Later on Friday, the organising committee plans to hold a meeting of its council and executive board, followed by a press conference.

Mori will explain his position at the meeting, Hashimoto told parliament, referring to a phone call with Mori. Asked whether it is possible for Mori, a departing leader to appoint his own successor, Hashimoto said there needs to be proper procedures to pick the next leader for the organising committee.

Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, sparked a global outcry with sexist comments that women talk too much earlier this month, which he made during an Olympic committee meeting.  Mori has apologised for his comments but has so far not resigned despite growing calls for him to step down.

His resignation less than six months before the Olympics are scheduled to begin are likely to raise new doubts over the viability of holding the postponed Games during a coronavirus pandemic.



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