The head of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee has apologised for making sexist remarks about women, but he said he would not resign, despite calls for him to step down on social media.
Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former prime minister of Japan, was reported to have said during an online meeting of the committee’s board of trustees that women talk too much.
“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mr Mori was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The remarks have created a storm in the country where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in boardrooms.
The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday morning and some users on the platform were calling on sponsors to pressure the Tokyo Olympics organising committee into dropping him from the top post.
In an interview with newspaper Mainichi, the 83-year-old apologised – and initially suggested he could resign.
“I had no intention to disrespect women,” the newspaper reported him saying. “I believe I must carry out my responsibility, but if calls for my resignation grow, I may have to resign.”
“It was careless of me, and I would like to apologise,” he added.
He later said: “I am not thinking to resign. I have been working hard and helped devotedly for seven years. I will not be stepping down.”
The former Japanese PM acknowledged that his comments were “inappropriate” and against the Olympic spirit.
Pressed during a news conference on whether he really thought women talked too much, he said: “I don’t listen to women that much lately so I don’t know.”
Asahi also reported him as saying during Tuesday’s online meeting: “Women are very competitive.
“When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something.”
He made his remarks when he was asked about the presence of few women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC).
The JOC decided in 2019 to aim for more than 40% female members on the board, but there are just five women among its 24 members.
The delayed Tokyo Olympics – now scheduled to open on 23 July – have been swamped with problems.
About 80% of Japanese in polls say the Games should be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.