World

Former minister Seiko Hashimoto to lead Tokyo Olympics committee

TOKYO: The new president of Tokyo 2020, Ms Seiko Hashimoto, yesterday vowed to restore trust in the Olympic organising committee after an embarrassing sexism row, with just over five months until the virus-postponed Games.

The seven-time Olympian had been one of just two women in Japan's Cabinet, serving as Olympic minister before stepping down to take the key post.

She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after saying women talk too much in meetings, sparking outcry in Japan and abroad.

"I'm sure the Games are going to attract more attention related to gender equality, and in this regard I am determined to regain trust, by my fullest endeavours," she said after her appointment.

She pledged to increase the number of women on the Tokyo 2020 executive board from around 20 per cent to 40 per cent, and urged Olympic torchbearers and volunteers who had quit in protest at Mr Mori's comments to return.

Until yesterday, Ms Hashimoto, 56, was also minister for gender equality and women's empowerment.

"I recognise that there is still a lot of conscious division of roles according to gender (in Japan).

"What can be done to change that through the organising committee's reforms is important," she said.

She had reportedly been reluctant to take the job, and will face an uphill struggle to win over the public before the Games open on July 23.

Anti-infection measures should be Tokyo 2020's "top priority", she said, pledging to work to "ensure the public, both domestically and abroad, feel this is going to be a safe and secure Olympic Games".

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Ms Hashimoto's years as a sprint cyclist and speed skater - winning bronze in 1992 - would be good preparation.

Ms Hashimoto has faced scrutiny in the past over reports that she made unwanted advances to a sportsman at a party during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

A magazine at the time published photos of her kissing ice skater Daisuke Takahashi.

She said then that athletes often hug and kiss each other and she regretted if it had caused any misunderstanding.

Mr Takahashi never made any complaint.

Asked about the incident yesterday, she said: "Both then and now, I deeply regret my careless behaviour."- AFP, REUTERS

WORLD