Hashimoto, as New Committee Head, must Dispel Chaos, Advance Games

The momentum created by choosing the new head of the organizing committee should be used to end the chaos as soon as possible and accelerate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Seiko Hashimoto, minister in charge of the Games, has been chosen as the new president of the organizing committee. She will lead the organization as the successor of Yoshiro Mori, who resigned over inappropriate remarks, with just five months to go until the Olympics open.

“I will work hard for the success of the Games,” Hashimoto said.

During the selection process, a panel set up by the organizing committee set five criteria for the new president, such as having the ability to realize gender equality and other principles promoted by the Olympics, as well as the ability to manage an organization and experience on the global stage.

Hashimoto competed in seven Summer and Winter Olympics. Having been involved in the Tokyo Games since the bidding stage, and as minister in charge, she is well versed in preparations thus far. She has also served as minister for women’s empowerment, meaning she has been proactively working on women’s issues.

It can be said that there was no other suitable candidate, considering her career as an athlete and as a politician. The selection panel unanimously decided to recommend her for the presidency of the organizing committee, according to sources.

As cabinet ministers are prohibited from holding executive posts in public interest corporations, Hashimoto resigned as minister in charge of the Games. She will be succeeded by Tamayo Marukawa, who used to hold the post.

The Olympic Charter calls for political neutrality among sports organizations. While expressing her intention to remain as a member of the House of Councillors, Hashimoto also said she will “take actions that won’t arouse doubt.”

Mori’s remarks, which can be considered discriminatory toward women, have given the international community the impression that gender discrimination still exists in Japan. The remarks also caused a backlash including some Games volunteers withdrawing.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has not been brought under control, some have expressed skepticism over holding the Games.

Rebuilding the organizing committee is an urgent task. The committee has said it will consider increasing the number of female executives following the recent furor. Rather than simply increasing the number, it is important for the committee to carry out reforms with tangible outcomes, such as allowing women to get directly involved in its management.

The committee is urged to do its best to reform the organization and dispel negative feelings around the Games.

There is a mountain of tasks to be tackled in order to hold the Games. Preparations for the Olympic torch relay, which is scheduled to start in about a month, have been delayed because another state of emergency has been put in place. A final decision must be made in March or April regarding whether to accept spectators at Games venues.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has called for Japan to draw up guidelines on measures against infections. To ensure that athletes and officials will take part in the Games without anxiety, it is important to show a concrete path toward a safe Games, including how testing will be conducted and how necessary personnel will be secured.

There is no time to spare by allowing the chaos to drag on. The organizing committee, the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments and other relevant organizations should work closely together and do their best to hold the Games.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 19, 2021.