Yoshiro Mori resigns as Tokyo Olympics chief – what next for the troubled Games?

Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent

The beleaguered Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were plunged into a fresh crisis on Friday following the resignation of the president of the Tokyo organising committee, Yoshiro Mori.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the circumstances behind Mori’s departure and assesses its potential impact on the build-up to the delayed Games.

Why did Mori resign?

Yoshiro Mori
Yoshiro Mori’s comments about women caused offence (Kim Kyung-hoon/AP)

Mori sparked uproar when he reportedly made sexist comments during a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee on February 3, complaining that meetings involving women tended to “drag on”, and adding: “When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing which is annoying.”

What was the reaction?

Naomi Osaka
Japan’s Naomi Osaka called Mori’s comments ‘ignorant’ (Hamish Blair/AP)

The International Olympic Committee initially attempted to draw a line under the incident by accepting Mori’s apology. But after the situation had escalated, with tennis star Naomi Osaka calling Mori’s comments “ignorant” and Games sponsor Toyota calling them “very regrettable”, the IOC changed its stance, conceding his comments had been “completely inappropriate”.

Why is he seen as a loss to the Tokyo Games?

IOC boss Thomas Bach
Mori has a strong relationship with IOC boss Thomas Bach (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mori has been president of the organising committee since its inauguration in January 2014, and had become closer to IOC president Thomas Bach in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s sudden resignation as Japanese prime minister in August last year. Also a former prime minster, Mori boasts an impressive history of sports-related advocacy, including playing an instrumental role in the launch of the J-League, Japan’s professional football competition, and formerly serving as president of the Japan Rugby Football Union.

And why are others glad to see the back of him?

During his brief reign as prime minister, Mori’s approval rating languished as his gaffes increased. His description of Japan as “a country of Gods centred around the emperor” was criticised for potentially breaching the constitution. In 2014, he berated top figure skater Mao Asada for a poor performance in Sochi, complaining that “she always falls over whenever it’s important.” Mori initially pressed for a two-year delay to the Olympics, describing the then prime minister Abe’s decision to commit to one year as “a gamble”.

Who will replace him?

Saburo Kawabuchi
Saburo Kawabuchi, right, could take over from Mori (Meika Fujio/AP)

It had been reported that Games officials would turn to J.League founder Saburo Kawabuchi, but Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said on Friday that Kawabuchi was “not thinking of becoming president” and would decline the role if it was offered to him. Muto said a committee, made up equally of men and women, would review candidates for the position and choose Mori’s successor in as speedy and transparent a way as possible.

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