Japan's Olympics minister is preferred candidate to head Tokyo 2020 | Inquirer Sports

Japan’s Olympics minister is preferred candidate to head Tokyo 2020

/ 05:41 PM February 17, 2021
Japan's Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto attends a news conference at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO— Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who is named after the Olympic flame and competed in seven Games, is the preferred candidate to take over the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee after her predecessor quit over sexist comments, public broadcaster NHK said.

Yoshiro Mori’s resignation as president of the committee last week after saying women talk too much dealt the latest blow to the Olympic Games, already marred by an unprecedented delay and strong public opposition during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The panel will ask Hashimoto if she wishes to take the position, NHK said.

“I am aware of the report, but the committee is an independent body that makes its own decision,” the government’s spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said.

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Born days before Japan hosted the 1964 summer Games, Hashimoto took part in four Winter Olympics as a speed skater and three Summer Olympics as a cyclist.

A 56-year-old lawmaker in Japan’s ruling party, Hashimoto has served as the Olympics minister, doubling as minister for women’s empowerment, since 2019.

Hashimoto has previously said she has not been asked to take on the 2020 job, NHK said. If she accepts now, the organizing committee is expected to hold a board meeting “as early as this week” to finalize the matter, it said.

Tokyo 2020 said in a statement: “At the first meeting yesterday, the committee agreed upon five criteria governing the qualities required of the new president. At today’s session, attended by all committee members, specific candidates were discussed with reference to the five criteria.”

The selection process will be explained once the new president is announced, and the third meeting of the committee would be held on Thursday, it said.

The criteria for a new leader include a deep understanding of gender equality and diversity, and the ability to attain those values during the Games, organisers said in a statement on Tuesday.

MORI FURORE ANOTHER SETBACK

A former prime minister, Mori, 83, resigned last Friday after causing an ouctry by saying during an Olympic committee meeting that women talk too much. He initially defied calls to step down.

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There was also anger over reports Mori had asked an older man – the 84-year-old mayor of the Olympic Village, Saburo Kawabuchi – to take over the job. But by Friday, Kawabuchi was reported by media to have turned it down.

The International Olympic Committee said at the time it was as dedicated as ever to holding the Games and would work hand-in-hand with Mori’s successor.

The Games are set to begin on July 23.

Organizers have vowed to go ahead with the Games despite the pandemic, while opinion polls have persistently shown the majority of Japanese oppose holding the event this year.

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