As Yoshiro Mori succeeds after the sexism row, Seiko Hashimoto vows to host healthy games
Seiko Hashimoto, the current president of the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said she acknowledges that "great public concern" remains about hosting the postponed Games during the coronavirus pandemic.
The former Olympic track cyclist and speed skater, speaking after her appointment just under five months before the Tokyo Games are due to start, said tackling the coronavirus threat was the most important challenge she faced, and she vowed to host a "safe and safe" Games.
"Now I'm here to give back what I owe as an athlete," Hashimoto, who served as Minister of the Olympics, told the Executive Board of the Organizing Committee. "I feel like I need to brace myself when I take on such a grave responsibility."
Days after her predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, resigned after making derogatory statements about women, Hashimoto answered media questions about an incident in 2014 when, during a party after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a magazine ran images of her making seemingly unwelcome advances towards a figure skater, Daisuke Takahashi.
"I deeply regret my behavior both then and now," she said.
At the time, Hashimoto denied any misconduct, saying she had actually given Takahashi the same love as other athletes would have, who also "very naturally hug and kiss each other." "But she added: "When this leads other people to misinterpret, I regret it and think I should be careful.
At the time, his agent said, Takahashi, did not lodge a formal complaint and did not believe he was a victim of sexual assault.
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka accepted the appointment of Hashimoto. Osaka said after her semi-final victory over Serena Williams at the Australian Open, "I feel like it's really good because you're pushing forward, barriers are broken down, especially for women." "There were so many things we had to fight for just to be fair. A lot of things aren't quite the same yet.
After a frantic round of meetings held to look for someone to draw a line under the Mori sexism row and fix a host of problems threatening the festival, a panel created by the organizing committee reportedly decided on the selection of Hashimoto, one of only a few prominent female politicians in Japan.
The organizers said that the new president of Tokyo 2020 should meet many requirements, including a strong understanding of gender equality and diversity and the willingness during the Games to uphold those values.
Hashimoto, who said she will fix the gender disparity on the organizing committee, will remain as an MP, but Tamayo Marukawa, a fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who held the post for a year from 2016, will be replaced as Olympics Minister.
Hashimoto said that the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, welcomed her decision to organize "people-welcomed" games.
But her first challenge would be to resolve, among the Japanese public, strong resistance to the Tokyo Games and growing questions about the wisdom of keeping the event during the pandemic.
His "heartfelt congratulations" were offered to Hashimoto by Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, describing her as "the perfect choice for this position." She will ensure that the attention in the final months of training stays on the experience of the athletes when preparing all the requisite countermeasures for Covid-19.
Bach added: "The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee is also sending a very important signal regarding gender equality with the appointment of a woman as president."
Born in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan, days before Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Games, Hashimoto competed as a speed skater at four Winter Olympics, won a bronze medal at the 1992 Games in Albertville, and as a track cyclist at three Summer Olympics.
Seiko, the first character in her given name, comes from Seika in Japanese, the Olympic flame.
Mori, 83, after saying that women had "drag on" meetings because they "talked too much," was forced to step down. He initially refused to resign and then tried to appoint his own successor, the former head of the Japan Football Association, Saburo Kawabuchi.
The first of a series of "playbooks" on coronavirus prevention measures was just released by organizers and the International Olympic Committee to tens of thousands of athletes, sponsors, journalists and officials expected in Tokyo when Mori's comments dominated the headlines, and the global backlash that followed.
The appointment of Hashimoto comes at a delicate time for the 2020 Games. About 80 percent of the Japanese public say that the event, the first to be postponed in the 124-year history of the modern Olympics, should be either cancelled or delayed again.
Tatsuya Maruyama, Shimane prefecture governor, said on Wednesday that due to concern about the spread of coronavirus, it was considering withdrawing from the torch relay, due to start late next month.
Should the current conditions continue, I believe it should be avoided to hold the Olympics," he said." "But I can't help but say that it would be difficult for Shimane to contribute to the hosting of the Olympic torch relay, given this situation where those who were meant to create an environment where we could safely enjoy the Olympics have not done what they need to do."
It is estimated that about 10,000 runners will bear the torch across the 47 prefectures of Japan, going through 859 locations over 121 days before the opening ceremony at Tokyo's national stadium on 23 July.
A Reuters poll on Thursday found that almost two-thirds of Japanese companies opposed hosting the Games as scheduled, in another indication that anti-Olympic sentiment in the host nation is hardening. It noticed that 36% of businesses wanted a second delay and 29% wanted a termination. The remaining 35% wanted the Games to go forward.
Asked how much impact the Games could have on the Japanese economy, 88% of companies said they expected to feel the either limited or very little impact, and only 5% expected a major boost.
"We could then see vaccines become widely available if the Olympics can wait another year," a manager of electrical machinery manufacturers said in the survey. The manager of the transport company wrote: "No one wants it to be held forcibly now."
Japan just launched the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, and by the time the Games open, significant parts of the population would not have been inoculated.
Source The Guardian