Tokyo Olympics official quits over 'Olympig' remarks about female entertainer

TOKYO – In another setback for the postponement Olympic Games in Tokyo – and one more comment on women – Hiroshi Sasaki, creative director of Games, resigned Thursday after making humiliating comments on a well-known female celebrity in Japan.

The Olympic Games in Tokyo should open in just over four months, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, record costs and numerous scandals. And all of this converges as the Olympic torch relay kicks off in northeastern Japan next week, a risky endeavor with 10,000 runners racing through Japan for four months.

Sasaki’s resignation is the final blow.

Last year he suggested planning employees in online brainstorming exchanges that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could list as “Olympian” in the ceremony.

Watanabe is a female fashion icon and very famous in Japan. Sasaki’s “Olympig” reference was an obvious match with the word “Olympic”.

The Japanese comedian Naomi Watanabe.Jiji Press / AFP via the Getty Images file

The story was first reported by the weekly Bunshun, and the related controversy began almost immediately.

It comes just a month after organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making sexist comments that women talk too much in meetings.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike described Sasaki’s comments as “extremely embarrassing”.

“When we talk about what we deliver from Tokyo or Japan, we shouldn’t send negative messages,” Koike said on Thursday.

Sasaki released a statement that he would resign. He said he also called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, and submitted his resignation.

“To Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and my comments are a great insult. And it’s unforgivable, “said Sasaki.” I deeply regret her and I apologize from the bottom of my heart to her and to those who may have been offended by it. “

“It is really unfortunate and I apologize wholeheartedly.”

Hashimoto said in a press conference on Thursday that she had accepted his resignation. She said a replacement would come quickly and also said she tried to persuade him to stay.

“I felt that way, but he explained and his intention was very strong,” said Hashimoto. “That’s how I felt. For these reasons, I have decided to accept his resignation. “

Hashimoto also said she spoke to IOC member John Coates, who is overseeing preparations for Tokyo.

“The IOC also received the (magazine) article and they were quite concerned,” said Hashimoto.

Hashimoto, who has appeared in seven Olympics and won a bronze medal in 1992, made similar sexist comments over a month ago and has been expelled. Hashimoto acted quickly and named 12 women to the board of directors of the organizing committee, increasing female membership to 42 percent. It was 20 percent.

“The IOC and Japanese politics are male dominated areas,” said Dr. Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, told The Associated Press. “Japanese politicians have a long history of promoting gender inequalities, along with many other inequalities.”

Sasaki was responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23. He also designed the handover ceremony in Tokyo at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and organized a year-long event in July at the new National Stadium in Tokyo.

He previously worked for the huge Japanese advertising company Dentsu Inc., which was instrumental in supporting these Olympic Games. It is the official marketing partner and has helped raise a record $ 3.5 billion in local sponsorship, nearly three times the amount at previous Olympics.

But the games have been hit by the pandemic and appear to be snake-bitten, creating new problems and more costs almost weekly. Support has fallen due to various polls suggesting that around 80 percent of Japanese people want to cancel or postpone the Olympics again. They cite the costs and risks of holding the mega-event during a pandemic.

Japan has controlled the virus better than most countries and attributed about 8,700 deaths to the virus. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Thursday that the government would lift the coronavirus state of emergency in the Tokyo area on Sunday, but the capital’s governor warned citizens not to give up their vigilance.

The organizers and the IOC insist that the Olympics continue during the pandemic with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes in Japan. The official cost to Tokyo is $ 15.4 billion, but several government audits show the real cost could be double that.

A study by Oxford University found that Tokyo is the most expensive Olympiad ever.

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