Seiko Hashimoto. Picture: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON
Seiko Hashimoto. Picture: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON

Tokyo — Japan’s Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto — who is named after the Olympic flame and competed in seven Games — is the preferred candidate to take over the Tokyo 2020 organising committee after her predecessor quit over sexist comments, public broadcaster NHK said.

Yoshiro Mori’s resignation as president of the committee last week after saying women talk too much dealt the latest blow to the Olympic Games, already marred by a year-long delay and strong public opposition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The panel will ask Hashimoto if she wishes to take the position, NHK said.

“I am aware of the report, but the committee is an independent body that makes its own decision,” the government’s spokesperson, chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato, said. Asked by reporters if she would accept the post if offered, Hashimoto said “There’s nothing to say,” the Asahi Shimbun daily reported.

Born days before Japan hosted the 1964 summer Games, Hashimoto took part in four Winter Olympics as a speed skater and three Summer Olympics as a cyclist.

A lawmaker in Japan’s ruling party, Hashimoto has served as the Olympics minister, doubling as minister for women’s empowerment, since 2019. Asahi said that if she took the post she would have to quit as Olympics minister.

Tokyo 2020 said in a statement that at a first meeting on Monday, the committee agreed five criteria for the new president. On Tuesday, specific candidates were discussed. The committee will meet again on Thursday, it said.

The criteria for a new leader include a deep understanding of gender equality and diversity, and the ability to attain those values during the Games, organisers said in a statement on Tuesday.

A former prime minister, Mori (83) finally resigned last Friday after causing an outcry by saying during an Olympic committee meeting that women talk too much. He initially defied calls to step down.

There was also anger over reports Mori had asked an older man — the 84-year-old mayor of the Olympic Village, Saburo Kawabuchi — to take over the job, but by Friday, Kawabuchi was reported to have turned it down.

The International Olympic Committee said at the time it was as dedicated as ever to holding the Games and would work hand-in-hand with Mori’s successor.

The Games are set to begin on July 23. Organisers have said they will go ahead despite the pandemic, while opinion polls have persistently shown most Japanese oppose holding the event this year.



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