TOKYO — Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said Thursday he would not resign despite pressure on him to do so after he made derogatory comments about women earlier in the week.
The controversy over the gaffe-prone former Japanese prime minister is one more problem facing organizers and the International Olympic Committee as they try to pull off the postponed Games in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. They are scheduled to open July 23.
“I am not thinking to resign,” Mori said. “I have been working hard and helped devotedly for seven years. I will not be stepping down.”
Mori was reported by the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun as saying during an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors earlier in the week that women talk too much in meetings. His comments created a storm in Japan, where women are grossly underrepresented in politics and in board rooms.
“The statement made at the Japan Olympic Committee was an inappropriate expression, contrary to the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” Mori said Thursday. “I am deeply remorseful. I would like to withdraw the statement. I would like to apologize for any unpleasant feelings.”
Asahi reported him saying in an online meeting: “Women are very competitive. When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something.”
His comment came when he was asked about the presence of few women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
“If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments. I’m not saying who that is,” he said.
The Tokyo Olympics he leads are already swamped with problems.
About 80% of Japanese in polls say the Games should be postponed or canceled in the midst of the pandemic. They also have spoken out on rising costs that might total more than $25 billion to put on these Olympics.