Celebrated female Olympian selected to lead Tokyo organizing committee

Celebrated female Olympian selected to lead Tokyo organizing committee
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Japanese Olympian Seiko Hashimoto on Thursday became the new head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee following sexist remarks made by its former president that prompted his resignation. 

Reuters reported that Hashimoto, a former cyclist and speed skater who competed in seven summer and winter Olympics, announced her selection at a press conference Thursday. 

“As someone with an athletic background, I will carry out a safe games for both athletes and citizens,” Hashimoto told reporters. 

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The Olympian-turned-politician took on the new role upon resigning as Japan’s minister of state for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach praised the selection of Hashimoto, writing in a statement, “With her great Olympic experience. ... and having led Japan’s delegation to the Olympic Games multiple times, she is the perfect choice for this position.” 

Bach added, “Seiko Hashimoto can draw on her rich political experience as a Minister and many other political functions. This will help to deliver safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Hashimoto’s appointment comes nearly a week after former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori resigned as president of the Tokyo Olympics committee following backlash over sexist comments he made about women talking too much at board meetings.

Upon announcing his resignation, the 83-year-old said at an executive board and council meeting that his “inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,” and that he had "no intention of neglecting women.” 

Mori earlier this month at a committee meeting suggested female members’ speaking time should be regulated because, “When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.” 

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As the new president of the committee, Hashimoto is now tasked with organizing the games that have prompted doubts and safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Tokyo committee has repeatedly said that the events will begin as planned on July 23, though Reuters noted that recent opinion polls show that more than 80 percent of people surveyed in Japan do not believe the games should be held this year due to the pandemic. 

Hashimoto on Thursday committed to addressing these concerns and making the Olympics as safe as possible, adding “I can imagine how tough it is for athletes with so many questions about whether they should even aim for the Olympics and Paralympics amid the pandemic.”