The president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee stepped down on Friday amid backlash for sexist remarks, the latest snag for a ceremony that's struggled to work around the coronavirus pandemic.
Yoshiro Mori resigned during a gathering of Council and Executive Board members on Friday, just over one week after he suggested during a meeting streamed online that women talk too much, according to The New York Times.
"With just over five months to go before the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, President Mori's resignation may be a cause of concern to you," Tokyo 2020 said in a statement. "However, we ensure you that we will proceed with the appointment of a successor in a swift and transparent manner in order to limit the impact on our preparation for the Games."
The statement added that the organization was taking into account "opinions and recommendations" voiced at the meeting in order to use the situation as an "opportunity to further promote gender equality in society."
Mori, the former prime minister of Japan, was widely criticized after a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting on Feb. 3, in which he spoke of efforts to increase female representation on the panel, according to the Times.
Mori, 83, reportedly expressed concern that the meetings would go on for too long, as he believed women competed against each other to speak for the longest amount of time.
According to the Associated Press, Mori apologized for the comments, but did not step down from the position, to which he was appointed in 2014, until this week, following mounting pressure, including an online petition that drew 150,000 signatures.
During Friday's meeting, he reportedly said that he was stepping down because his comments had "caused a lot of chaos" and he did not want to be a source of distraction.
"As long as I remain in this position, it causes trouble," he said, according to the AP. "If that is the case, it will ruin everything we've built up."
Ahead of the meeting, he expressed regret for his remarks, telling reporters that he "said something I shouldn't have said," the Times reported.
"I didn't mean it in that way, although it was said to be discrimination against women. I have been praising women, promoting them to speak out more," he said. "My inappropriate comments caused big trouble. I'm sorry."
No successor has been announced, and there remains just five months until the Games are set to open on July 23, one year later than originally scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The AP reported Seiko Hashimoto is a likely frontrunner. She is the current government Olympic minister, and won a bronze medal in speedskating in 1992.
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