The Tokyo Olympics chief has apologised for making sexist remarks about women, but refuses to resign despite a widespread outcry.
Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former prime minister of the country, was reported by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun to have said during an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors that women talk too much in meetings.
According to the Asahi newspaper, the 83-year-old said: “If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.”
“We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”
The remarks have created a storm in Japan where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in boardrooms.
The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday morning and some users on the platform were calling on sponsors to pressure the Tokyo organising committee into dropping Mori from the top post.
Mori acknowledged that his comments that women board members talked too much were “inappropriate” and against the Olympic spirit.
In a hastily-called press briefing, Mori tried to explain himself, at first apologising, then later saying that he did not necessarily think that fretting over the number of women in high-ranking position was what was important.
“I don’t talk to women that much lately so I don’t know,” Mori said, when asked by a reporter whether he had any basis for saying that women board members talked too much during meetings.
The JOC decided in 2019 to aim for more than 40 percent female members on the board, but there are just five women among the board’s 24 members.
Japan persistently trails its peers on promoting gender equality, ranking 121 out of 153 nations surveyed in the 2020 global gender gap report of the World Economic Forum.
Mori’s defiant response is unlikely to tamp down public criticism and anger over his comments is likely to further alienate a Japanese public that has grown wary of Tokyo’s attempts to hold the Games during a pandemic.
Nearly 80 percent of the Japanese public opposes holding the Games as scheduled in July, according to the most recent poll.