Dubai: Seiko Hashimoto, the incoming Tokyo 2020 President, has vouched to “spare no effort for the success of the Tokyo Games”. She was appointed Tokyo 2020 President on Thursday after accepting the vacant role following the resignation of Yoshiro Mori last week.
Hashimoto said she had met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and had stepped down as Olympics Minister prior to taking up the position as head of the Organising Committee for the postponed Games.
The 56-year-old Olympic speed skating bronze medallist had been proposed for the job by the Candidate Selection Committee tasked with choosing Mori’s successor, but was reportedly initially reluctant to accept.
“I will spare no effort for the success of the Tokyo Games,” Hashimoto said after taking over her new role.
Appointing a woman to the role is a highly significant move following the departure of Mori, who resigned after causing uproar with sexist comments about women.
Japanese media reported Yasuhiro Yamashita, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee and gold medallist in judo at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and Mikako Kotani, a double bronze medallist in synchronised swimming at Seoul 1988, were also in the running.
The Selection Committee, headed by 85-year-old Canon chief executive Fujio Mitarai, fast-tracked its process to find a replacement for Mori, with the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to open in just over five months.
It was established after the 83-year-old former Japanese Prime Minister bowed to widespread pressure and resigned as Tokyo 2020 President following his sexist remarks, when he suggested women talk too much.
Top sporting officials were quick to commend the new appointment with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach insisting that the appointing a female to lead the Organising Committee “sends a very important signal with regard to gender equality”.
“With her great Olympic experience, having won a medal, participated in seven editions of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games and having led Japan’s delegation to the Olympic Games multiple times, she is the perfect choice for this position,” Bach noted.
“She will ensure that the focus in the final months of preparation remains on the athletes’ experience while planning all the necessary COVID-19 counter-measures,” he added.
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons said it was “essential that no time was left to waste” in replacing Mori and welcomed Hashimoto’s appointment.
“She knows the Games environment well as a seven-time Olympian and former Games Minister, is well connected politically and will bring a strong athlete viewpoint to the Organising Committee,” Parsons said.
“As the former Minister of State for Gender Equality and Minister in Charge of Women’s Empowerment, I look forward to her to using the Games as a platform to advance the diversity and inclusion agenda, not just in terms of gender, but sexuality, race and, importantly, persons with disabilities,” he added.
Former Japan Football Association (JFA) head Saburo Kawabuchi, who at 84 is a year older than Mori, had emerged as the favourite for the Tokyo 2020 Presidency but withdrew from consideration after plans to give him the role were widely criticised.
Despite initially claiming the issue was “closed” following Mori’s comments, the IOC branded Mori’s remarks “absolutely inappropriate” five days later.
The sexism row marked the latest crisis for organisers of the first postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games and came amid renewed concerns over whether the event would go ahead following a surge in COVID-19 cases across the world.