The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee yesterday appointed one of Japan’s most-celebrated female Olympians as its new president, after her predecessor stepped down over his sexist remarks.
Seiko Hashimoto — a seven-time Olympian who was later elected to parliament five times as a member for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — was named to the post at a Tokyo 2020 board meeting.
Hashimoto earlier in the day resigned from her positions as minister for the Olympics and for gender equality to meet requirements for the new job.
“We must make the Olympics, which starts in five months, a safe and reassuring event,” Hashimoto said. “Measures against the coronavirus are the top priority.”
Named after the Japanese word used for the Olympic flame, Hashimoto, 56, is a former Olympic speed skater and track cyclist.
She would be replaced as minister by Tamayo Marukawa, who has previously served in the position, public broadcaster NHK said, keeping the number of women in Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s 20-member Cabinet at two.
One of Hashimoto’s most pressing tasks will be winning back the confidence of sponsors, including the country’s biggest company Toyota, which raised concerns after Yoshiro Mori, the former president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, disparaged women by saying they talk too much in board meetings.
The 83-year-old Mori, a former prime minister with a history of gaffes, stepped down last week.
“For too long, sexism has found comfortable shelter in the Olympic movement,” said Jules Boykoff, a professor at Pacific University Oregon and author of a political history of the Olympics, adding that a woman has only once headed a local organizing committee — at the 2004 Athens Games.
The new post could be one of Hashimoto’s most difficult assignments, coming just five months before the opening ceremony. The Summer Games have already been pushed back by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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