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Sexist remark about "annoying" women mars Japan's bid to show it's ready to host the Olympics

Questions about plans for Tokyo Olympics
Questions about plans for Tokyo Olympics 02:50

Just as Japanese and international Olympics officials are trying their hardest to demonstrate meticulous care in planning for the already-delayed Summer Olympics, the chief of the Tokyo Games has been forced to apologize for sexist remarks. 

"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," 83-year-old former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said at a Wednesday meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee Council.

Mori apologized on Thursday for suggesting that women talk too much and that meetings with more female board directors would "take a lot of time," but he has rebuffed calls to step down from his role at the helm of the Summer Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 President Mori And CEO Muto Speak To Media After Video Conference With IOC President Bach
Tokyo Olympic And Paralympic Games Organizing Committee (TOGOC) President Yoshiro Mori speaks to media from the TOGOC headquarters, January 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Takashi Aoyama/Getty

The International Olympic Committee issued a statement calling gender equality "a fundamental principle" for the organization and citing gains in recent years to reduce significant gaps in the number of women versus men on its leadership bodies. But the statement concluded by noting Mori's apology, and saying that with it, "the IOC considers the issue closed."

The new negative attention comes at a delicate time, as Mori's team and the IOC face huge pressure from both inside and outside Japan to scrap the games over coronavirus safety concerns.

These Olympics were already postponed from last year, and Japanese and IOC officials have dismissed calls for another delay — or cancelation — insisting they can launch a safe, healthy Olympic Games in July.

How athletes are preparing for 2021 Olympics 02:48

To show how they plan to do that, the Tokyo organizers have released a so-called "playbook" — a 33-page guide to behavior for certain groups of people who are going to attend the games.

Japan's affinity for rulemaking is well-known but, especially amid a pandemic, many would agree that it's better to be safe than sorry. 

The Olympic playbook is the first of its kind, aimed at people like judges and officials for the various Olympic sports. 

Some of the guidelines are unsurprising. One rule, for example, is that everyone must wear a face mask any time they're indoors, and people need to keep six feet away from each other, not just three feet like in the U.S. and some other countries. 

Also, all athletes and officials need to be tested 72 hours before leaving their home countries, and then they need to be tested every four days while in Japan.

Some of the guidelines are a little more interesting: One says spectators can't cheer or sing, but only clap. The concern being that water droplets spewed from fans' mouths could carry COVID-19.

Another rule says everyone taking part must avoid physical contact. That includes hugs and handshakes, but by implication it also means more — intimate — interactions. It's well known that the Olympics are a time for celebration, on and off the field, and enforcement will be a question. 

One slightly surprising guideline the Japanese planners have issued is that athletes will not be required to get a coronavirus vaccine before they show up in Tokyo. There have been some concerns about side effects potentially affecting their performance. 

In the days ahead the Tokyo Olympics Committee is expected to release more detailed playbooks for other groups, including athletes, media and spectators.

It's still not clear whether fans and media will be allowed to attend all the events in person — but if spectators are allowed in, clapping will be the only sanctioned way to show their enthusiasm. 

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