© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tokyo Olympics 2020 Organizing Committee press conference
TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo 2020 Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori is expected to step down on Friday over sexist remarks. His anointed successor has reportedly turned down the job after public criticism less than six months before the difficult games began.
83-year-old Mori had tapped 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, who currently serves as mayor of the Olympic village, to take the top position, Kawabuchi previously told reporters.
However, the election raised questions about whether there is no better alternative than other older, male and local media outlets. Kawabuchi later turned down the job.
Local broadcaster Fuji News Network reported that the government will try to block Kawabuchi’s nomination.
“We can’t give the impression that things have changed if we don’t appoint a woman or see a generation change,” FNN quoted a government source as saying.
The Mori controversy did “serious reputational damage” to the Tokyo Olympics and the selection of Kawabuchi is far from restoring confidence, said a source involved in the Olympics.
The source, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said many officials wanted a wife to replace Mori’s position.
Local media said the country’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto is being considered as a possible candidate.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had asked Mori if there was either a younger or a female candidate for success, but Mori recommended Kawabuchi, Kawabuchi said.
Katsunobu Kato, top government spokesman, said he was unaware of Suga’s conversation with Mori.
The Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee declined to comment on media coverage of Mori and Kawabuchi.
Later on Friday, the organizing committee plans to hold a meeting of its council and management, followed by a press conference.
Mori will explain his position at the game on Friday, Japanese Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto told parliament, referring to a phone call with Mori.
When asked whether it would be possible for Mori, an outgoing leader, to appoint his own successor, Hashimoto said that there must be appropriate procedures in place to select the next leader for the organizing committee.
Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, sparked a worldwide outcry with sexist comments that women talk too much earlier this month, which he did during a meeting of the Olympic Committee.
Mori has apologized for his comments but has not resigned as of yet, despite increasing encouragement to resign.
His resignation less than six months before the start of the Summer Olympics should raise new doubts about the feasibility of holding the postponed games during a coronavirus pandemic.
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