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Do better, activists slam Mori’s successor choice

Equality activists called for more radical reform by Tokyo Olympics organizers yesterday, as Games chiefs prepared to replace one octogenarian male president with another after a sexism row.

Saburo Kawabuchi, 84, is expected to take over as head of the Games, with 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori to resign after his claims that women talk too much in meetings sparked a groundswell of condemnation.

But campaigners say only a complete shake-up can bring about real change, and accused Games kingmakers of failing to take the gender imbalance issue seriously.

“They think it’s a game where they just invite another friend of theirs to take leadership, without giving other people – especially younger people – a chance,” Kazuna Yamamoto, founder of gender equality campaign group Voice Up Japan, told AFP.

Mori’s comments sparked outcry in Japan, where a petition calling for his resignation attracted more than 110,000 signatures in just two days, as sponsors, athletes, and politicians lined up to lambast the former prime minister.

The International Olympic Committee said it considered the matter closed after Mori apologized, but eventually called his comments “completely inappropriate” as criticism mounted.

Campaigners have been heartened by the grassroots response in Japan, which ranked 121st out of 153 nations surveyed in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 global gender gap report.

But they say there is still much work to be done – pointing to the fact that there are just seven women among the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s 35 board members.

“You can’t just say that things have changed because he’s resigned,” Kazuko Fukuda, a campaigner for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, said.

Japanese media reported that Mori has hand-picked Kawabuchi as his successor, and will continue to serve in an advisory capacity.

Fukuda says such backroom deals are typical of a culture in Japan where “women are not involved in decision-making.”

Pride House Tokyo – a community hub for LGBTQ people officially recognized as part of the Olympic program – published an open letter this week calling for organizers to take concrete steps to ensure discriminatory comments do not occur again.

Project chief Gon Matsunaka believes Olympic organizers must look beyond replacing Mori and undertake genuine reform.*AFP

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