Tag Archives: Olympics

North Korea says it won’t participate in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns

North Korea said it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A website run by the North’s sports ministry said the decision was made during a national Olympic Committee meeting on March 25 where members prioritized protecting athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Tuesday expressed regret over the North’s decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she was still confirming details and couldn’t immediately comment on the matter.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.

Politics and sports

At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula, while the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders captivated global attention.

The Koreas also fielded their first combined Olympic team in women’s ice hockey, which drew passionate support from crowds despite losing all five of its games with a combined score of 28-2.

Those games were also much about politics. The North Korean contingent included the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who conveyed her brother’s desire for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a move which helped it initiate diplomacy with South Korea and the United States.

That diplomacy has stalemated since, and North Korea’s decision to sit out the Tokyo Olympics is a setback for hopes to revive it.

WATCH | Olympic torch begins 121-day journey:

Japanese torchbearer Azusa Iwashimizu, a member of Japan’s women’s national football team, lit the Tokyo Olympic torch to begin the relay in Fukushima, Japan. 0:40

While North Korea has steadfastly claimed to be coronavirus-free, outsiders widely doubt whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers to quarantine tens of thousands of people who had shown symptoms.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga previously said he expected to invite U.S. President Joe Biden to the Olympics and was willing to meet with Kim Jong-un or his powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, if either attended the Games. Suga, however, did not say if he will invite either of them.

Kim Jong-un in recent political speeches has pledged to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S.-led pressure, and his government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overture for talks, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The North ended a yearlong pause in ballistic testing activity last month by firing two short-range missiles off its eastern coast, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

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Fans from outside Japan banned from attending Tokyo Olympics

Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months, the IOC and local organizers said Saturday.

The decision was announced after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers.

The move was expected and rumoured for several months. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic, an idea strongly opposed by the Japanese public. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries.

“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.

About 1 million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan. Organizers have promised refunds, but this will be determined by so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers that handle sales outside Japan. These dealers charge fees of up to 20 per cent above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded.

WATCH | How the pandemic changes sports overnight:

In the blink of an eye, everything in the sports world changed, culminating in the mayhem that ensued on March 11, 2020. 5:14

“We could wait until the very last moment to decide, except for the spectators,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee. “They have to secure accommodations and flights. So we have to decide early otherwise we will cause a lot of inconvenience from them. I know this is a very tough issue.”

IOC President Thomas Bach called it a “difficult decision.”

“We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody,” he said.

The financial burden of lost ticket sales falls on Japan. The local organizing committee budget called from $ 800 million income from ticket sales, the third largest income source in the privately finance budget. Any shortfall in the budget will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Overall, Japan is officially spending $ 15.4 billion US to organize the Olympics. Several government audits say the actual cost may be twice that much. All but $ 6.7 billion is public money.

About 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents. Organizers are expected next month to announce the capacity at venues, which will be filled by local residents.

The ban on fans from abroad comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts Thursday from Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. It will last for 121 days, crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners, and is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The relay will be a test for the Olympics and Paralympics, which will involve 15,400 athletes entering Japan. They will be tested before leaving home, tested upon arrival in Japan, and tested frequently while they reside in a secure “bubble” in the Athletes Village alongside Tokyo Bay.

Athletes will not be required to be vaccinated to enter Japan, but many will be.

In the midst of Saturday’s meeting, Bach and others were given a reminder about earthquake-prone northeastern Japan — and Japan in general.

A strong earthquake shook Tokyo and triggered a tsunami warning as Bach and others made introductory remarks before the virtual meeting. The strength was put a 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey and the location was in northeastern Japan, an area hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“I think the screen is shaking. Have you noticed the screen is shaking,” Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s Olympic minister, said as she made her presentation from Tokyo talking remotely to Bach visible on a screen in Switzerland. “We’re actually in the midst of an earthquake right now.”

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Tokyo Olympics hit by another scandal over sexist comment

Tokyo Olympics creative director Hiroshi Sasaki is resigning after making demeaning comments about a well-known female celebrity.

It is yet another setback for the postponed games and another involving comments about women. The Olympics are to open in just over four months, dogged by the pandemic, record costs and numerous scandals.

In February, the president of the organizing committee Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making sexist comments, saying women talk too much in meetings.

Two years ago, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda was also forced to step down in a bribery scandal connected to vote-buying involving International Olympic Committee members.

Sasaki was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, which are to begin on July 23. Last year he told planning staff members that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig.”

Watanabe is a heavy-set woman and very famous in Japan, and “Olympig” was a play on the word “Olympic.”

‘It is unforgivable’

Sasaki released a statement early on Thursday saying he was stepping down. He said he had also called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, and tendered his resignation.

“For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable,” Sasaki said. “I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”

“It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he added.

Hashimoto, who replaced Mori, was scheduled to speak later on Thursday.

Sasaki formerly worked for the giant Japanese advertising company Dentsu Inc., which has been a key supporter of these Olympics. It is the official marketing partner and has helped to raise a record of $ 3.5 billion in local sponsorship, almost three times as much as any previous Olympics.

The torch relay for the Olympics kicks off next week from northeastern Japan and will be a severe test with 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months, heading to the opening ceremony and trying to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Organizers and the IOC insist the Olympics will go forward during the pandemic with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Japan. Official costs for Tokyo are $ 15.4 billion but several government audits show the real cost might be twice that much.

A University of Oxford study says Tokyo is the most expensive Olympics on record.

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Canadian Adriana Leon undergoes surgery for broken foot, Olympics in limbo

Canadian international forward Adriana Leon will miss the rest of the FA Women’s Super League season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured foot.

The English league runs through May 9. There was no immediate word on whether her recovery will stretch into the Tokyo Olympics, whose soccer competition is scheduled for July 21 through Aug. 7.

In a release Tuesday, West Ham said the surgery happened last Friday.

In 18 appearances this season, Leon has picked up one goal and five assists.

She joined West Ham United in January 2019 following a five-year stretch in the National Women’s Soccer League where she was last with the Seattle Reign, who decided not to retain her rights following the 2018 season. 

In between that time, she made the move to Swiss Nationalliga A team FC Zurich Frauen in 2016, where she spent four months before returning to the U.S. to play for the Boston Breakers of the NWSL. 

The King City, Ont. native attended Notre Dame University for her first two years on the Divison 1 level before transferring to the University of Florida for one year. 

The 28-year-old has won 66 caps for Canada with 19 goals and four assists.

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Japan reportedly to stage Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics minus overseas spectators

Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Tokyo 2020 games organizing committee said in response that a decision would be made by the end of March.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Kyodo said the government had concluded welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying.

The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without any spectators, Kyodo said.

“The organizing committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic,” Kyodo said, quoting the officials.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has said she wants a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.

“Five parties, the IOC, the IPC [International Paralympic Committee], Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government, came together for a meeting via online just last week,” the organizing committee said in response to the Kyodo report.

“The decision regarding allowing spectators from overseas to attend the Tokyo 2020 Games will be made by the end of March based on factors including the state of infections in Japan and other countries, possible epidemic-prevention measures, and expert scientific advice will be considered.”

Public wary

In the last Olympic Games, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, local fans accounted for 80 per cent of all ticket sales, with international fans buying 20 percent.

While coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.

Japan has recorded more than 441,200 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with the death toll at more than 8,300.

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.

The survey showed 77 per cent of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18 per cent in favour.

Some 48 per cent said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45 per cent were in favour.

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Canadian swimmer Maggie Mac Neil facing prospect of competing at Olympics without family

When Maggie Mac Neil won the 100-metre butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, her mother, father and younger sister were in the stands cheering.

“My parents have done a great job throughout my career always trying to come to as many meets as they can,” said the 20-year-old London, Ont., native who is now attending the University of Michigan. “It was definitely nice to have them there in Korea.”

When Mac Neil competes for Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo, it’s unlikely any family members will be there to watch. Concerns about COVID-19 and restrictions due to the virus are convincing friends and family of many Olympic athletes to rethink travelling to the Games.

Susan McNair, Mac Neil’s mother, said staying home won’t be easy.

“I didn’t grow up anticipating I would have a child in the Olympics,” McNair said. “I didn’t anticipate if she did make the Olympics that we would ever not be there.”

WATCH | Maggie Mac Neil posts Canadian-record time at aquatic worlds:

Canadian teen Maggie MacNeil posts a Canadian-record time of 55.83 seconds at the world aquatics championships. 2:56

Last March, Nathan Hirayama celebrated with his family in the stands at BC Place Stadium after Canada defeated South Africa to win the bronze medal at the HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby tournament. He had hoped to repeat the experience in Tokyo — his parents had already booked flights — but now doubts it will happen.

“Our families have been on this journey with us for so long, supporting us and travelling and staying up in the middle of the night watching,” said the 32-year-old from Richmond, B.C. “They invested in what we’re doing. I think the whole experience would be fantastic to share with our loved ones.

“I think what we’re coming to understand now is, if these Olympics do happen, they’ll look a lot different than what we all dreamed about or foreseen for so long.”

Fears over COVID-19 forced the Tokyo Olympics to be delayed one year. With the Games now scheduled to begin July 23, some of the playbooks that instruct athletes, officials and members of the media of the protocols to be followed have been released, but many questions remain.

“If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways,” reads the playbook for international federations. “For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require your flexibility and understanding.”

WATCH | Breaking down the IOC playbook:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

Organizers have said they will wait until the spring to decide if fans will be permitted to travel to Tokyo or attend any events.

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, believes a limited number of fans will be allowed.

“I would see some, but certainly not full stadiums,” he said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is waiting for more information before advising families and friends about travelling to Tokyo.

“We continue in our preparation to participate at Tokyo 2020 with a focus on the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities,” Eric Myles, the COC’s chief sport officer, said in a statement.

“We are planning based on the assumptions that the COVID-19 virus will still be present internationally and that Team Canada may not be vaccinated. We expect the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to update their playbooks in April, at which point we hope to provide a more thorough update for athletes to help inform their family and friends’ decisions.”

WATCH | Mac Neil overcomes nerves to claim gold at acquatic worlds in 2019:

Canadian Maggie MacNeil discusses her victory in the 100m butterfly at aquatics worlds. 0:50

McNair, who is a family physician, had originally planned on her brother and his family to join them at the Olympics. Now, with tight restrictions expected on access to athletes, she questions the point of going.

“There’s a lot of factors kind of against going at this point,” she said. “Even if we didn’t have access to her there [but] we could see her swim, I think I’d be the first one on the plane.

“But there’s a lot of cons against it right now. I want the joy of watching her swim, but I also want to do what’s right, in terms of our safety and the safety of others.”

Another deterrent could be recently-introduced rules that travellers returning to Canada are required to take a COVID-19 test upon landing and spend the first three days of their quarantine, at their own expense, at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results.

For Hirayama, whose great grandparents came to Canada from Japan, Tokyo has special significance. His parents had planned to meet up with old friends while in Japan.

He hopes conditions will change and his parents can make the trip.

“It’s hard to plan for anything that’s not a week away,” he said. “Things change so quickly. It would be awesome for them to book a last minute ticket, but I don’t think they’re planning on it now.”

In some ways, not having her parents make the journey would be a relief for Mac Neil.

“My parents are getting older,” she said. “It’s definitely better for them to just stay home safe and healthy.

“I think no matter where I am in the world, no matter where they are, I can always feel their support.”

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Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to Larry Nassar dies by suicide after charges

A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself Thursday, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them, authorities said.

John Geddert was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, Mich. His body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police. No other details were immediately released.

“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Nessel earlier announced that Geddert was charged with two dozen crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison.

Geddert, 63, was head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.

Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him.

The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark.

‘It can happen to anyone, anywhere’

Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labour of young athletes.

“The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault,” Nessel said.

“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behaviour to this day.”

The attorney general acknowledged that the case might not fit the common understanding of human trafficking.

“We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves … but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young, impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”

Geddert was suspended by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. In 2018, he told families he was retiring.

On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in Michigan gymnastics history.” He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championships.

But Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018.

“What a great best friend John was to Larry for giving him an entire world where he was able to abuse so easily,” said gymnast Lindsey Lemke. “You two sure do have a funny meaning of friendship. You, John Geddert, also deserve to sit behind bars right next to Larry.”

Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert.

“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she said on Twitter after Geddert’s death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.”

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How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down the Tokyo Olympics chief

When a 22-year-old Japanese college student launched an online campaign against the powerful Tokyo Olympics chief and the sexist remarks he made, she was not sure it would go very far.

But in less than two weeks, Momoko Nojo’s #DontBeSilent campaign organized with other activists and gathered more than 150,000 signatures, galvanizing global outrage against Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020.

He quit last week and has been replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympic Games.

The hashtag was coined in response to remarks by Mori, an octogenarian former prime minister, that women talk too much. Nojo used it on Twitter and other social media platforms to gather support for a petition calling for action against him.

“Few petitions have got 150,000 signatures before. I thought it was really great. People take this personally too, not seeing this as only Mori’s problem,” said a smiling Nojo in a Zoom interview.

Her activism, born from a year studying in Denmark, is the latest example of women outside mainstream politics in Japan taking to keyboards to bring social change in the world’s third-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps and stereotyping are rampant.


Japan’s Olympic Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, right, talks with Yoshiro Mori at a meeting in December. Hashimoto has been named Mori’s replacement as president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee. (Associated Press)

‘Good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan’

“It made me realize that this is a good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan,” said Nojo, a fourth-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo.

She said her activism was motivated by questions she has often heard from male peers like, “You’re a girl, so you have to go to a high school that has pretty school uniforms, don’t you?” or “Even if you don’t have a job after graduating from college, you can be a housewife, no?”

Nojo started her nonprofit “NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

The time in Denmark, she said, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.

Keiko Ikeda, a professor of education at Hokkaido University, said it was important for young, worldly people to raise their voice in Japan, where decisions tend to be made by a uniform group of like-minded people. But change will come agonizingly slowly, she said.

“If you have a homogeneous group, it’s impossibly difficult to move the compass because the people in it don’t realize it when their decision is off-centre,” Ikeda said.

Proposal dismissed as PR stunt

Nojo dismissed a proposal this week by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to allow more women in meetings, but only as silent observers, as a poorly-executed PR stunt.

“I’m not sure if they have the willingness to fundamentally improve the gender issue,” she said, adding that the party needed to have more women in key posts, rather than having them as observers.

In reality, Nojo’s win is only a small step in a long fight.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index — the worst ranking among advanced countries — scoring poorly on women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

Activists and many ordinary women say drastic change is needed in the workplace, and in politics.

“In Japan, when there’s an issue related to gender equality, not many voices are heard, and even if there are some voices to improve the situation, they run out of steam and nothing changes,” Nojo said.

“I don’t want our next generation to spend their time over this issue.” 

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Head of Tokyo Olympics resigns over sexist comments

Yoshiro Mori resigned Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee following sexist comments implying women talk too much.

“As of today I will resign from the president’s position,” he said to open an executive board and council meeting. The board was expected to pick his successor later on Friday.

“My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,”he said. He repeated several times he had regret over the remarks, but also said he had “no intention of neglecting women.”

Mori’s departure comes after more than a week of non-stop criticism about his remarks earlier this month. He initially apologized but refused to step away, which was followed by relentless pressure from television pundits, sponsors, and an online petition that drew 150,000 signatures.

But it’s not clear that his resignation will clear the air and return the focus to exactly how Tokyo can hold the Olympics in just over five months in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympics a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, with clear support from about 15 per cent.

Early reports said the 83-year-old Mori had picked 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, the former president of the governing body of Japanese soccer and a former player himself. He played for Japan in the 1964 Olympics.

WATCH | Head of Toyko Olympics under fire for sexist comments:

Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori acknowledged that his comments that women board members talked too much were ‘inappropriate’ and against the Olympic spirit. Mori said that he would not resign, however. 2:03

Kawabuchi is even older than Mori and will raise the issue of why a woman was not appointed. This is the centre of the entire debate that Mori triggered over gender inequality in Japan and the absence of women in boardrooms, politics, and sports governance. Women are also largely absent in leadership roles at the organizing committee.

Kawabuchi indicated on Thursday he had been contacted by Mori. But he said later he indicated he might not be the appropriate choice.

Japanese media immediately pointed out there were three qualified women — all athletes and former Olympians and at least a generation younger — who could fill the job.

Kaori Yamaguchi won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in judo. Mikako Kotani won two bronze medals in the 1988 Olympics in synchronized swimming. And Naoko Takahashi was a gold medallist in the marathon in the 2000 Olympics.


The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympic a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Spotlight on gender equality

Seiko Hashimoto, the current Olympic minister and a former Olympian, has also been mentioned as a candiate.

Mori’s remarks have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, characterized Japan as a country still run “by a club of old men.” But he said this could be a watershed.

“Social norms are changing,”he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “A clear majority of the Japanese found Mori’s comments unacceptable, so the problem is more to do with the lack of representation of women in leadership positions. This sorry episode may have the effect of strengthening the call for greater gender equality and diversity in the halls of power.”


A lifebuoy is pictured on a shore near the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. With less than six months to go until the start of the Games, speculation persists about the viability of the Games going ahead as scheduled in July. (Getty Images)

Though some on the street called for Mori to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stopped short of this and simply condemned his remarks.

A comment a few days ago from Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda seemed to move the needle.

Toyota is one of 14 so-called Olympic TOP sponsors that pay about $ 1 billion US every four-year cycle to the International Olympic Committee. The company seldom speaks out on politics, and Toyota did not call for Mori’s resignation. But just speaking on the matter might have been enough.

“The (Mori) comment is different from our values, and we find it regrettable.” Toyoda said.

Toyota and Coca-Cola also are major sponsors of the torch relay.

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Head of Tokyo Olympics expected to resign over sexist comments: reports

The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.

A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelmingly male, as is the day-to-day leadership.

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.

Country lags in gender equality

More than 80 per cent of the Japanese public in recent polls say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled.

Mori’s remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Though some on the street have called for him to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. Japan is a country that works largely on consensus with politicians — often elderly and male — acting behind the scenes and leaking trial balloons to sense public sentiment.

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