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  • Op Ed -- Tokyo Olympics Overlook Women Once More


    05/28/14

    Women are underrepresented among Tokyo 2020 leadership. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) If there’s help needed at the Tokyo Olympics, aging men apparently only need apply.

    The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that a group of elderly sports and business leaders are in line to take the first seats on the Advisory Committee for the 2020 Olympics that will counsel Yoshiro Mori. The former prime minister is also president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

    When Mori was named to his post in February along with other male colleagues to lead the board of directors for the organizing committee, the absence of female leadership was noticeable. It drew pledges from Mori that women would not be overlooked in organizing the 2020 Games.

    But that would seem to be the case if the Yomiuri Shimbun report is accurate. About a dozen names are floated as members of the Advisory Committee, all men.

    Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh (Getty Images)
    Japanese sports legend Sadaharu Oh, 74, Japanese baseball home run king and former manager of the Yomiuri Giants, may be the best recognized member. Then there’s former Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Shintaro Ishihara, 81, a leader of a nationalist political party and one of the forces behind the Tokyo Olympic bid.

    Honorary IOC member Sunichiro Okano, 82, is included, as is Fujio Cho, 77, honorary chairman of Toyota Motors and president of the Japan Sports Association.

    The choice of the Advisory Committee members reflects the domination of males in Japanese society and respect for seniority. But the IOC cannot simply look away and tacitly accept such a disconnect from the ideals of gender equity that are part of the Olympic movement of the 21st century.

    Likewise, the idea of youth playing a larger role in the staging of the Games appears also to be a tough concept to sell in Japan. Instead of Olympians who could offer youthful zeal and the experience of sport, the Advisory Committee will include three governors from prefectures affected by the eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

    Some towns remain abandoned in the wake of Japan's 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. (Getty Images)
    The disaster happened just as Tokyo was launching its bid for 2020 and bid leaders have always said the Olympics would be part of the recovery. While the naming of the politicians from the disaster zone to the Advisory Committee would seem to be a way to deliver on this commitment, it begs the question whether decisions about the Olympics will be made based on their contributions to earthquake recovery – – and not necessarily for the good of the games.

    We do not mean to diminish the pain and suffering of millions who have suffered from this disaster, but Olympic organizers have it tough enough to keep their focus on delivering the Games. Adding a societal dimension is honorable. But taking care of all the other details directly needed for the Olympics will yield more success than expectations that the Games will erase the heartache and devastation of the earthquake.

    These developments come as the IOC prepares to make its first full visit to Tokyo since the Games were awarded last September. Without being hardhearted, IOC coordination commission chair John Coates can use his experience to keep the Japanese organizers focused on their ultimate mission: delivering great Games. And although some toes might be stepped on, Coates and the IOC hopefully can convince the Japanese to honor the contribution women and youth -- in decision-making roles -- can make towards a successful 2020 Olympics.

    Written by Ed Hula

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