(ATR) The new president of Tokyo 2020 tells staff they must be “one team” to successfully deliver the postponed Olympics and Paralympics in five months.
"The committee should come together as one team and work toward winning the confidence of the Japanese people," Hashimoto Seiko said in an online speech Friday.
A day earlier she was named to replace Mori Yoshiro, the former prime minister who resigned earlier this month after inopportune remarks at a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting.
Commenting on efforts to increase female leadership on the JOC, Mori dismissively said that women talk too much and tend to dominate discussion. Mori quickly apologized but that was not enough to staunch the outpouring of criticism he faced.
The controversy also highlighted the lagging public opinion about the Games. More than 60 percent of Japanese polled in recent surveys say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled outright.
Hashimoto, 56, is reported to have been reluctant to take the post, despite a career path that seems like it was destined to lead an Olympic Games.
Born on the eve of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, her parents gave her a first name that means flame. Growing up in sport she became a seven-time Olympian in Summer and Winter Games. Hashimoto went into politics, remaining connected to Japanese sport. In 2014 she was chef de mission for the Japanese team to the Sochi Olympics. For the past two years she has served as Olympics Minister in the national government and the head of the commission for empowering women.
Now Hashimoto is celebrated for breaking a glass ceiling in Japan with her elevation to the Tokyo 2020 presidency.
"The committee should come together as one team and work toward winning the confidence of the Japanese people. By working together with the Tokyo and central governments to take sufficient measures against the coronavirus, it is my huge mission to hold a trusted Tokyo Games," she said in her first speech to the staff as president.
While much has been done to prepare for the Games, the five months remaining are still loaded with challenges for Hashimoto. In a month the complex Olympic Torch Relay begins with 11,000 runners carrying the flame across Japan until July 23. Next week Tokyo organizers will reveal specifics of the relay that must adapt to coronavirus precautions.
The vagaries of the virus will be a specter haunting Hashimoto and her colleagues in these final months to the Games. While there is a determined spirit to deliver the Olympics within the organizing committee, a sudden worsening of conditions could spell trouble. Regardless, Hashimoto and Team Tokyo must grapple with a complex set of protocols for staging the Games. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with nearly 20,000 athletes and officials for 33 sports, will be the most complex sport event staged since the pandemic took hold last year.
Whether spectators will be allowed to attend is another watershed decision ahead for Tokyo 2020. That decision will be reached in concert with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government, which already has a new Olympics Minister. Marukawa Tamayo was a presenter for Asahi TV before she entered politics.
Hashimoto is not expected to name Mori as a formal advisor, but said she will consult as needed with the veteran politician she calls a mentor.
Hashimoto says she aims to increase membership of women on the Tokyo 2020 board. Just seven of the 34 members are women.
Reported by Ed Hula.
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