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24 June


Seiko Hashimoto to accept job of Tokyo 2020 president

Seiko Hashimoto, a speed skater and track cyclist, currently serves as Olympics minister

Photo: Nikkei

/NOVOSTIVL/ Japanese Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, 56, will accept the offer to succeed Yoshiro Mori as president of the beleaguered Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Nikkei has learned.

Hashimoto, a seven-time Olympian and one of two women in Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's cabinet, is poised to take the helm only five months before the postponed Summer Games begin.

Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister, resigned last week after sexist comments he made during a meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee were roundly criticized. Meetings with women "take so much time," he said, amid the committee's efforts to raise the ratio of female directors to 40% from 20%. Currently, there are five women on the 25-member board.

The controversy was the latest setback for an event that has grown progressively unpopular with a majority of the Japanese public, as the country grapples with COVID-19.

Upon Mori's resignation, the position was offered to Saburo Kawabuchi, 84, a former Japan Football Association president and soccer player. Kawabuchi declined, setting off a largely behind-closed-doors search for other candidates, many of whom apparently also chose to bow out.

Hashimoto was reported on Wednesday to be the last candidate standing.

While the Tokyo 2020 president is mostly a figurehead, Hashimoto's appointment signals that the men's club of Olympic decision-makers in Tokyo have learned from the backlash over Mori's comments.

Hashimoto represented Japan in both Winter and Summer Olympics, competing as a speed skater and track cyclist. She won a bronze medal for speed skating at the Albertville Games in 1992, and continued to compete even after winning a seat in parliament in 1995.