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Tokyo Olympics chief to step down over sexist remarks amid criticism at home, abroad

  • February 12, 2021
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All national dailies gave prominent front- and inside-page coverage to Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games President Mori’s decision to resign to take responsibility for the commotion triggered by his discriminatory remarks against women, saying that former Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi has agreed to take over the post. “If elected, I will do my best to make the Games a success,” said the 84-year-old longtime sports administrator who played a key role in popularizing professional soccer and basketball. Mori is expected to officially announce his resignation today during a meeting of the committee’s executives, who will then elect Kawabuchi as its new head.


The dailies said the new president will be confronted with paramount challenges in the run-up to the Games, including whether to go ahead with them during the pandemic and whether to allow spectators to attend. Nikkei opined that Kawabuchi’s most pressing task will be to draw up a clear roadmap for hosting the games in a “safe and secure” manner. Sankei noted that the new leader will have to start from scratch in generating enthusiasm for the Olympics among the Japanese people since it has waned significantly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Mori controversy.


Several papers expressed concern that the selection of the new Olympics chief took place “behind the scenes,” explaining that Mori met with Kawabuchi yesterday to ask him to take over even though he had not announced that he would be resigning and no firm consensus had been reached among the executive members of the organizing committee on tapping Kawabuchi. Yomiuri conjectured that the international community may become skeptical about the new chief being elected inside a “black box,” arguing that the organizing committee needs to increase transparency when preparing for the Games since support from the international community is indispensable to making them a success. Mainichi conjectured that Mori reached out to Kawabuchi because they are close and that will enable him to continue controlling the organizing committee from behind the scenes. According to Asahi, before reaching out to Kawabuchi, Mori turned down a suggestion from the International Olympic Committee to enlist a woman to serve as his “co-president.” Mori also reportedly dismissed Prime Minister Suga’s request that he select a younger person or woman as his successor.


The papers also reported that calls for Mori’s resignation had swelled not only in Japan but also abroad, highlighting an opinion piece posted on the official NBC News website demanding that Mori “must go” since he “dropped the Olympic torch by going on a sexism spree.” Explaining that the U.S. broadcaster has been the largest corporate sponsor of the Olympics for many decades by shelling out enormous sums to the IOC, some local sports tabloids speculated the NBC article served as an “ultimatum.” Asahi asserted that Mori concluded that he had no choice but to quit after speaking by phone on Monday with IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games chief John Coates, with whom he has built a strong bond. Coates reportedly told Mori that “top corporate sponsors of the IOC are extremely critical.” This statement reportedly marked a clear departure from the IOC’s previous position that the issue was “closed” following Mori’s initial apology. Mainichi claimed that Tokyo Governor Koike’s remark on Wednesday that she was going to boycott a planned four-party meeting next week with IOC President Bach, Mori, and Olympic Minister Hashimoto also put Mori into a tight spot.

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