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Woman to Head Japan Olympic Games Committee After Sexist Comments Scandal

Olympic Games Coronavirus
Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Japan has appointed prominent female politician Hashimoto Seiko to head the country’s Olympic Games organizing committee. She takes the place of Mori Yoshiro, who resigned last week after a rare outcry against his earlier sexist comments.

Hashimoto resigned her cabinet position as both minister for the Olympics and minister for female empowerment and gender equality. She is replaced in both roles by Marukawa Tamayo, another well-connected female politician.

Hashimoto is a well-known former skater who has represented Japan at multiple Olympic Games. At 56, she is also a generation younger than the 83-year-old former prime minister Mori.

“It is my mission to host the games by prioritizing safety for both participants and the Japanese people, and create an atmosphere for athletes to go on the stage of their dreams without worrying,” Hashimoto said, after she was formally approved by the committee’s executive board. She also vowed to get preparations back on track as quickly as possible and to rebuild trust in the committee by pursing gender equality.

Her task with the games is a tough one. The Olympic torch parade is scheduled to start from next month. And the summer games are only five months away. The Summer Games will be held July 23, 2021 to Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympic Games will run Aug. 24, 2021 to Sept. 5, 2021.

Japan remains largely closed due to coronavirus control measures and it has not yet decided whether to allow foreign visitors, media and officials into the country in July for the games.

The country has recorded 421,000 virus infections and 7,294 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. But its vaccination program is barely beginning. The first shots were flown into the country only last week.

Multiple commentators in Japanese media and on social media suggest that the task of achieving a more gender-equal Japan is still harder. Mori attracted international attention for saying that women on boards should be restricted from speaking too much. He apologized and resigned after a surge of criticism. But his initial reaction was to nominate another octogenarian man to take his place.