Japanese Minister Seiko Hashimoto replaces Yoshiro Mori who had to resign last Friday after sexist comments that caused a scandal.
Appointed Thursday President of the Organizing Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Seiko Hashimoto vowed to “regain the confidence” of public opinion after the embarrassing sexist scandal which had pushed her predecessor Yoshiro Mori to resign last Friday. “I will spare no effort for the success of the Tokyo Games,” Hashimoto said after her appointment, coming five months before the event’s scheduled opening (July 23 – August 8), reported the last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am confident that the Games will bring more attention to gender equality, and at this level I am determined to regain confidence,” she added afterwards. She pledged to raise the rate of women on the Tokyo 2020 executive board to 40% from the current 20%, and called on Games volunteers and Olympic torch relay runners who had thrown in the towel. after the Mori case to change your mind.
She had previously presented Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga with her resignation from the government, of which she was one of only two women to hold a portfolio, specifically that of the Olympic Games and Gender Equality since September 2019. Mr. Suga announced his replacement by another woman, Tamayo Marukawa (50), who had already been Minister of the Olympics between 2016 and 2017. Ms. Hashimoto quickly emerged as the big favorite to succeed Mr. Mori, pushed to the exit for having declared debut February that women spoke too long during meetings, which he found “annoying.”
“The ideal choice”
The words of the 83-year-old former Japanese prime minister had been strongly condemned, in Japan and abroad. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had belatedly judged that they were contrary to the values of Olympism, and sponsors of the Olympics had also increased the pressure on Mr. Mori. IOC President Thomas Bach sent a statement Thursday his “most sincere congratulations” to Ms. Hashimoto, “the ideal choice” according to him and “an extremely strong message” in terms of gender equality “.
Tokyo-2020 had formed a joint council to settle the succession of Mr. Mori, who had initially tried to be replaced by the former patriarch of Japanese professional football Saburo Kawabuchi, even older than him (84 years). Mr. Suga called on Ms. Hashimoto to “work hard” to make the Tokyo Games a reality, based on her experience as a former top athlete.
Also a member of the Upper House of Parliament since 1995, Ms. Hashimoto has indeed a long sports career behind her. She participated in seven Olympic Games (four Winter Olympics and three Summer Olympics) in the 1980s and 1990s, as a speed skater and track cyclist. She won a bronze medal in speed skating at the Albertville Games (France) in 1992.
An imposed decision?
The fact that Tokyo-2020 has established “five criteria for choosing the new president, including an understanding of gender equality and human rights, represents real progress”, reacted to AFP Kazuko Fukuda, an activist of the women’s rights in Japan. “Now we have to make sure that the gender equality policies in the country do not back down,” added Ms. Fukuda, who helped organize an online petition after the Mori case that raised a total of more than 157,000 signatures.
Since the Australian Open in Melbourne, where she just beat Serena Williams to advance to the final of the women’s tournament, Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has also considered the nomination of Ms. Hashimoto to be “a good thing. Barriers are falling, especially for women, ”welcomed the 23-year-old champion, who had called Mr. Mori“ ignorant ”after his sexist remarks.
Ms. Hashimoto would however have hesitated to accept the presidency of Tokyo-2020, according to several Japanese media. The challenge that awaits him is immense. A majority of Japanese are against the holding of the Olympics this year, fearing that the event will lead to an upsurge in the pandemic in the country.
The organizers of the Olympics have prepared a battery of measures and restrictions in the face of Covid-19, but without going so far as to impose quarantine or vaccination for the participants. Ms. Hashimoto said Thursday that these countermeasures would be the “top priority” to organize a “safe” Olympics. The thorny question of the presence or absence of spectators, and of a possible maximum tonnage, must be decided in the spring.