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Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori reportedly to resign amid backlash over sexist remarks

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

Tokyo — The long saga of Japan's embattled Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori appeared to be near an end on Thursday. Japan's Kyodo news agency and others reported — citing unnamed sources — that Mori was to step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.
 
The move would follow a backlash over sexist comments he made about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.
 
A decision was expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee's executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelming male, as is its day-to-day leadership.

Tokyo 2020 President Mori Apologises For Sexist Remarks
Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori attends a press conference on February 4, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. KIM KYUNG-HOON/Getty

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, said that "annoying" women "talk too much" and are driven by a "strong sense of rivalry." Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.
 
More than 80% of the Japanese public in recent polls have said the Olympics should be postponed or canceled.
 
Mori's remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum's gender equality rankings.
 
Though some on the street have called for him to resign — almost 400 Olympic volunteers have said they'll quit — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. 

"Not in touch"

Natsumi Ikoma, who directs gender studies at Tokyo's International Christian University, told CBS News' Lucy Craft this week that the episode speaks volumes about Japan's insular, male-centric and increasingly gerontocratic conservative party, which has run the country almost nonstop for the last nearly 70 years.

OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori (L) speaks during the opening remarks session of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics executive board meeting in Tokyo on December 22, 2020. CARL COURT/POOL/AFP/Getty

"Because he's so old, he's not in touch with modern technology... and probably he's not really aware of the MeToo movement," Ikoma said. "So I think he considered it okay to say something so obviously sexist."

Japan's customary deference to elders is also to blame, she said.

"Because he is high-ranking, he's surrounded by sycophants and probably nobody has ever criticized him before," said Ikoma. "The older (you) are, the more authority you have, so they think they should be revered." 

Historian Chelsea Szendi Schieder, of Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University, told CBS News that sexist trolling by Japanese politicians is so commonplace here that the furor over Mori's statements was especially noteworthy.

"There's the usual procedure — there's a so-called gaffe, and then an apology to retract it, and then that's supposed to smooth everything over," Schieder said. "What I've been a little bit surprised about is how much traction this has gotten."

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