Mori’s Decision to Step Down as Tokyo Games Chief Came Too Late

Yoshiro Mori bears a heavy responsibility for damaging Japan’s image by making inappropriate remarks. It must be said that his decision to resign came too late.

The president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has expressed his intention to resign to take responsibility for his gaffe. “I should not obstruct the preparations for the Games by staying in the position,” Mori said at an emergency meeting held by the organizing committee.

At a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee on Feb. 3, Mori said, “A board meeting with many female members takes a long time.” The following day, he withdrew his remarks, but he also expressed his intention to remain as organizing committee president.

Mori’s remarks gave the international community the impression that Japan is an archaic country where gender discrimination still exists. It is obvious that he lacked awareness as the person leading the management of the Games.

The International Olympic Committee, which initially intended to overlook the comments, had a complete about-face and issued a statement criticizing Mori for his “absolutely inappropriate” remarks. The change was probably due to growing criticism from athletes and sponsor companies.

Judgments by the relevant Games officials, such as initially intending to keep Mori as the president, which was sought by the organizing committee, are difficult to understand. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga did not try to get involved in Mori’s course of action, though he said the remarks “are not good for the national interests.”

Although the committee is an incorporated organization established by the Tokyo metropolitan government and the JOC, it is the entity responsible for handling the Games, which involve the whole nation.

The government and the organizing committee must work together with the Tokyo metropolitan government to restore the public’s trust both at home and abroad. It is necessary to tenaciously communicate that they are promoting the appointment of women across the whole of society.

Mori reportedly sounded out Saburo Kawabuchi, adviser to the Japan Football Association, on succeeding him, and he had accepted the offer at one time.

The post of the president of the organizing committee is supposed to be decided by the executive board. Criticism arose in the ruling parties that the decision was being made “behind closed doors” due to the fact that Mori picked his successor with disregard for procedure.

Kawabuchi later turned down the offer, and the process to decide Mori’s successor is back to square one. It is regrettable that the committee’s improper handling of this matter has caused further confusion.

Mori has played a significant role as head of the organizing committee for seven years. He has devoted himself to coordinating with the IOC and revising the plan for hosting the Games due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

However, picking his successor is a separate matter. The organizing committee has said it will set up a selection panel to pick the next president. Decisions should be made in an open manner based on various opinions.

There are many tasks to be tackled before the Games come to fruition. The organizing committee must reorganize itself as soon as possible and present a path toward a safe event.