The organizing committee of this summer's Tokyo Olympics announced Wednesday it will hold a meeting later this week to discuss its response to controversial remarks about women made by its president that have triggered a backlash in Japan and abroad.
The meeting on Friday will deal with the comments widely viewed as sexist by Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, who set off the storm when he said last week that meetings involving women tend to drag on because they talk too much.
The organizing committee's announcement comes as Mori's comments have dealt a blow to the committee's efforts to build momentum toward the games amid low public support and pressures on him to resign are mounting.
The International Olympic Committee initially said the matter was closed after Mori apologized for the remarks but issued a fresh statement Tuesday calling his comments "absolutely inappropriate" amid continued criticism by the public and athletes.
On Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she will not attend a four-party meeting involving IOC chief Thomas Bach that was planned for this month because holding discussions at this point "would not deliver anything really positive."
The meeting, which was proposed by Bach last month to go over games preparations, was expected to be held Feb. 17, including Mori and Japanese Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto.
Koike told reporters the talks should be held once the situation regarding the comments improves.
Criticism over Mori's remarks has been voiced not just by the public but by the head of a major Olympic sponsor.
Toyota Motor Corp., one of the games' major sponsors, released Wednesday a statement by its President Akio Toyoda saying, "It is truly regrettable that (Mori's comments) are different from the values that Toyota has cherished."
While Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and several other lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as its junior coalition partner Komeito have not joined calls for Mori to resign, they have said the comments were inappropriate.
Katsunobu Kato, the top government spokesman, said in a press conference, "As an independent organization, I believe the organizing committee should be responsible for making its own personnel decisions about its president."
But Kato stressed that Mori's comments are completely different from the idea of the games aiming for gender equality.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Komeito, said Mori "should make a decision himself," considering the IOC's response and public opinion.
The Tokyo Olympic head's controversial remarks came with less than six months until the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed last year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In commenting on increasing gender diversity among the board members of the Japanese Olympic Committee during its online meeting on Feb. 3, Mori complained about what he believes is the tendency of women to talk too much and have "a strong sense of rivalry," adding that when one female member raises her hand to speak, "everyone ends up saying something."
A Kyodo News survey conducted over the weekend found nearly 60 percent of respondents believe Mori is not qualified for his role.
In the same poll, only 14.5 percent of the respondents said the Olympics and Paralympics should be held this summer, while 47.1 percent said they should be postponed again, with 35.2 percent supporting a cancellation.