Sexist comments made by Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori were “completely inappropriate”, the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday, as the row over his controversial remarks continues to simmer.
The IOC’s statement came as Japanese media said organisers were planning to meet this week to discuss their response to the uproar.
Several hundred Olympic volunteers have quit since Mori last week said women speak too much in meetings. He has since apologised but not stepped down, and the IOC last week said it considered the matter closed.
But on Tuesday it released a lengthy statement citing its commitment to gender equality and distancing itself from the remarks made by Mori.
“The recent comments of Tokyo 2020 President Mori were absolutely inappropriate and in contradiction to the IOC’s commitments and the reforms of its Olympic Agenda 2020,” it said.
It noted Mori had apologised “and later made a number of subsequent comments”.
After apologising, Mori appeared to dig himself in deeper, however, explaining he “doesn’t speak to women much”.
The IOC made no reference to calls for Mori’s resignation, noting only that Tokyo’s organising committee “also considers his comment to be inappropriate and has reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality”.
Japanese media said Tuesday the organising committee could meet as soon Friday to discuss its response as calls grow for Mori to resign.
Since Mori’s remarks, nearly 400 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers have quit, according to the committee, which said the number includes withdrawals for all reasons.
A total of 80,000 volunteers from Japan and overseas have been recruited for this summer’s virus-postponed Games.
Two people have pulled out of the torch relay and around 4,000 people complained to organisers, said public broadcaster NHK.
The row is the latest headache for organisers already battling public disquiet about the delayed Olympics, with polls showing more than 80 percent of Japanese oppose holding it this summer.
An online campaign calling for action against Mori has attracted more than 140,000 signatures, while tennis superstar Naomi Osaka slammed his comments as “ignorant”.
Top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that organisers should try and convince volunteers to return.
“It is important that the organising committee gives a careful explanation to volunteers,” he said, days after a Tokyo 2020 statement reaffirmed a commitment to gender equality and diversity.
But ruling-party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai reportedly said Monday that volunteers “would change their mind when things calm down” — sparking further ire online and from other politicians.
“If they really want to quit, we’ll need to recruit new ones,” he said, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Some Olympic sponsors have told organisers they received complaints and boycott threats over Mori’s comments, the Mainichi Shimbun daily reported.
“We would like to refrain from ‘performing’ with president Mori” to promote products, the newspaper quoted one anonymous company official as saying.