Behind the Olympic Controversy - Resignations and Sexism

Published on 17 February 2021 at 13:10

Last Friday Yoshiro Mori resigned from his role as Head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.This resignation came after he came under pressure due to comments he made suggesting the women talk too much. His comments caused a wave to backlash across Japan and around the world. His resignation brings more uncertainty to the already delayed Summer Olympic Games.When Tokyo was announced as the Olympic city for 2021 Japan experienced a rise in national pride. The country had not hosted the games since 1964 and the opportunity brought a much needed boost in patriotism and jobs.


 The controversy surrounding Mori began on February 3rd after he commented that meetings with women take longer because they talk too much causing lengthy discussions. Initially he apologized but declined to resign and said that he “didn’t listen to women much lately” thus digging an even deeper hole for himself. His allies worked to protect him but foreign diplomats, athletes and sponsors have come out against him.


 The international Olympic committee came out with a statement condemning his comment on Tuesday .The Governor of Tokyo refused to attend a meeting with Mori , saying she didn't think it would send a “positive message”. Unsurprisingly the incident caused a storm on twitter, with an online petition amassing over 140,000 signatures calling for his resignation.


Athletes and Sponsors have also come out against Mori’s Comments. Toyota Motor one to the Olympics top sponsors spoke out about the comments saying; “The (Mori) comment is different from our values, and we find it regrettable.”. While the company did not call for Mori’s resignation their statement did increase pressure on the former prime minister. Athletes such as the tennis star Naomi Osaka who called the remarks “ignorant” and champion Olympic swimmer Kosuke Hagino said they were “very unfortunate.”


The saga has highlighted Japan’s male dominated, conservative system. Japan lags behind in promoting gender equality among developed nations. In the world economic forum's gender 2020 gap index Japan ranks 121st out of 153 countries, highlighting  the gender disparity in the country.Coupled with this Japan's gender pay gap is the biggest among the world's leading economies and has widened over the course of the last year. Women also hold just 15% of senior and leadership positions. The younger generations in Japan are more progressive and a progreesive sentiment has coloured the media coverage of this in Japan.


The media was quick to point out three women that are qualified to fill the role left empty after the resignation. These women Kaori Yamaguchi, Mikako Kotani , Naoko Takahashi are all former athletes and  well placed to take over the position.


Attempts were made by Mori and his allies to appoint what the media called “another grandpa” to the stated the 83year ol Mori had chosen 84 year old Saburo Kawabuchi to take over upon his resignation. The former olympian and soccer player is the former president of the governing body of Japanese soccer. This caused even more outrage and soon Kawabuchi concluded that he was not the appropriate choice for the position.


What does this mean for the upcoming Olympic Games?Hundreds of  volunteers have withdrawn their support for the Olympics and in a recent poll over 80% of the Population think that the Summer Games should be cancelled or further delayed.The country also reported its worst death toll with 121 new deaths from Covid-19. The country has yet to roll out its mass vaccination programme. 


After Yoshiro Mori's resignation the organisers met for two hours and committed to form a 50-50 gender balanced committee to elect his successor.  


In conclusion this resignation has highlighted many different problems in Japan's leadership and laid the foundation for a historic appointment in the coming days.

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