Controversial remarks about women by the head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee continued to draw criticism on Friday, with Japanese ministers and sports officials voicing concerns over the comments widely viewed as sexist.
"I would like him to respond adequately so he does not repeat what he did," Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto told a press conference, referring to Yoshiro Mori, who this week said women talk too much during meetings and later apologized for the comments.
Hashimoto said she spoke with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach over the phone last night. Bach asked the Japanese government to continue working toward the success of the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Hashimoto.
Both the IOC and International Paralympic Committee released comments Thursday stating that Mori's apology closed the matter.
The remarks by Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister, have triggered backlash both at home and abroad, complicating the efforts by the Tokyo Olympic organizers to deal with low public support to hold the games this summer despite a global resurgence of the virus.
Mori made the comments on Wednesday during an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
In commenting on increasing gender diversity among the JOC board members, he complained about what he believes is women's tendency to talk much and have "a strong sense of rivalry," adding when one female member raises her hand to speak, "everyone ends up saying something."
He apologized on Thursday for his "inappropriate" comments but insisted he will not resign despite mounting calls for his removal.
On Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the comments were "impermissible" and told reporters that she was at a loss for words when she learned about the remarks.
"It is the mission of the metropolitan government and the organizing committee to host a safe and secure games, but now we are facing a serious situation," Koike, the first female governor of the capital, said at the metropolitan government office.
"The IOC has said the matter is closed, but I have heard that games volunteers have resigned and people have made phone calls in protest, so we need to look into that," she added.
Koike later told a press conference that she received an apology from Mori.
The comments also drew responses from officials of sport governing bodies. JOC chief Yasuhiro Yamashita told reporters that Mori's comments "violate the Olympic spirit."
"He has apologized and retracted (the remarks). I understand there are many opinions, but I would like him to serve in his position until the end," said Yamashita.
Mayumi Taniguchi, one of the Japan Rugby Football Union's five female board members, said the comments by Mori were "incomprehensible" and "off-target."
"There is no truth in what he said," she told Kyodo News in a telephone interview. Mori is a former president of the union.
The remarks have sparked criticism on social media, with a hashtag in Japanese meaning "Please retire, Yoshiro Mori" going viral on Twitter. Some users have also said the comments were "outdated" and "an embarrassment" to the country.
By late Friday evening, more than 90,000 people had signed an online petition, calling for the central and metropolitan governments, as well as the JOC and the organizing committee, to "properly address" Mori's behavior. The petition was launched on Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, people who have signed up to volunteer during the Summer Games have also voiced concerns, with some considering withdrawing their registration.
"I'm wondering if I should actually volunteer," Toshiharu Matsui, a 40-year-old from Tokyo, told Kyodo News.
"I have been concerned about the risk of working in a crowded place because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. I am now less motivated because of the latest development (regarding the comments)," he said.
The committee, flooded by complaints about Mori's remarks, apologized on its website to volunteers and asked for their continued support of the games.