03.03.2021 Europe

More women join Tokyo Olympics committee as virus fires doubts about event

By Paul Myers - RFI
LISTEN MAR 3, 2021

Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics made a gesture towards gender equality on Wednesday by increasing the number of women on the committee's executive board from seven to 19. This comes as a new poll reveals the event is losing public support in light of the Covid pandemic.

To accommodate the new members, the board was expanded from 35 to 45.

Toshiro Muto, the committee's chief executive, announced the changes but it is understood Seiko Hashimoto, the new president, prompted the revamp.

She took over last month from 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori who was forced to resign after making condescending comments about women. During a meeting with officials from Japan's Olympic Committee he sniped that they talked too much.

“Regarding the promotion of gender equality, we believe that it is necessary to work with a sense of speed and produce solid results in order to restore the trust in the organising committee,” said Hashimoto, the winner of a bronze medal in speed skating in the 1992 Winter Games.

The organising committee's new lineup emerged on a day when another Japanese newspaper poll showed citizens are reluctant for the games to be staged while the country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

 A poll of 3,000 people for Yomiuri revealed 58 percent of respondents do not want the Games to be held because they fear the spread of infection.

The Games could be held, said 40 percent of them, with thorough infection-prevention measures.

A majority - 91 percent - said if the Games are to go ahead as scheduled between 23 July and 8 August, spectators must be kept to a minimum or not allowed at all.

The survey was carried out between 19 January and 25 February during a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and several other regions.

The 32nd Olympiad was scheduled for the summer of 2020 but it was eventually postponed as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic took hold.