Japan’s Olympic Minister takes Tokyo 2020 top job

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto became Tokyo 2020’s new president yesterday, capping an embarrassing sexism row with just over five months until the virus-postponed Games.

Hashimoto, a seven-time Olympian who competed in speed skating and as a sprint cyclist, was one of just two women in Japan’s cabinet before stepping down to take the key post.

She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after claiming that women speak too much in meetings, sparking outcry in Japan and abroad.

“I will spare no effort for the success of the Tokyo Games,” Hashimoto said after being formally appointed, calling virus countermeasures “the top priority”.

She pledged to work to “ensure that the public both domestically and abroad feel this is going to be a safe and secure Olympic Games”.

Hashimoto submitted her resignation earlier yesterday to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who she said had offered “kind words”, and asked her to “give all my strength to create a Tokyo Games that will be embraced by the Japanese people”.

A committee with a 50-50 gender split was formed to find a successor to Mori last week, with Hashimoto immediately among the leading candidates.

Tokyo 2020’s executive board met earlier yesterday to hear the results of the committee’s deliberations with 2020 Vice-President Toshiaki Endo saying a quick decision was needed.

Mori’s departure was “enormously damaging from the viewpoint of preparation five months before the Games”, Endo said.

“We need to make a decision on the new president as soon as possible, though it is necessary that it goes through procedures, given the issue has attracted attention,” he added.