12/02/2021 07:37 GMT | Updated 12/02/2021 10:31 GMT

Tokyo Olympics Chief Yoshiro Mori Resigns After Saying 'Women Talk Too Much'

The 83-year-old former prime minister said: "My inappropriate comments caused a big trouble. I am sorry."

The head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Yoshiro Moris resigned Friday, days after making sexist comments that “women talk too much” during a committee meeting. 

With fewer than six months to go before the start of the troubled 2020 games former Japanese prime minister Mori, 83, sparked a furore when he made the sexist comment and refused to step down.

But on Friday he told a board meeting that the most important thing now was for the Tokyo Olympics to be a success, submitting his resignation.

“My inappropriate comments caused a big trouble. I am sorry,” Mori said.

Mori said that though he may have said something unnecessary, he did not do it intentionally and felt his comments were misinterpreted by the media, adding he was not prejudiced against women.

“I have been trying to support women as much as possible, and I have been trying to support women more than men so they can speak....” he said.

“There were times when people would not put their hands up and not speak up, and I would go out of my way to say … please speak and I feel that women have been able to speak a lot.”

Mori made the sexist comments in front of reporters on February 3, telling the Japanese Olympic Committee: “Board of directors meetings with many women take a lot of time.

“When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.”

“Women are competitive,” Mori added. “When one person raises a hand, others think they need to speak up as well. That’s why everyone speaks.”

According to reporters present, some members of the committee laughed at Mori’s comments, made in response to a question about the Japanese Olympic Committee committee’s goal of having more than 40 percent female members.

As the Washington Post reports, only five of 24 members were women as of November.

Mori on Thursday had asked the mayor of the Olympic Village, 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, to take over the top position, but by Friday public criticism of his hand-picked successor as another older male reportedly saw Kawabuchi turn down the job.

Broadcaster Fuji News Network reported the government would seek to block the nomination of Kawabuchi, quoting a government source as saying: “We can’t give the impression that things have changed unless we install a woman or see a generational shift.”

Mori noted at the start of the Friday meeting that some people have talked about “problems caused by the elderly”.

“But the elderly have worked hard for the world and for Japan. It’s extremely unpleasant to hear bad things said about the elderly. But there’s no use complaining about that,” he said.

The Mori controversy has done “serious reputational damage” to the Tokyo Olympics, said one source involved in the Olympics, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and adding that many officials want a woman to replace Mori.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, herself a pioneer as Tokyo’s first female leader, avoided giving a direct answer when asked during a news conference who Mori’s successor should be, but said the person should embody Olympic ideals of inclusivity and be somebody the world can accept.

“Diversity and harmony - that’s something that the person at the top needs to understand, embody and broadcast,” she said. “I think this is an essential thing.”