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Another sexist joke at the Tokyo Olympics has exploded.

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Another sexist joke at the Tokyo Olympics has exploded.
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Another sexist joke at the Tokyo Olympics has exploded.

Another sexist joke at the Tokyo Olympics has exploded.

 

Hiroshi Sasaki, the games’ artistic director, resigned on Thursday after making derogatory remarks regarding a well-known female celebrity in Japan, in yet another setback for the postponed Tokyo Olympics — and another involving comments about women.

The Tokyo Olympics, which have been plagued by the coronavirus pandemic, record prices, and multiple controversies, are set to begin in just over four months. All of this comes to a head next week as the Olympic torch relay begins in northeastern Japan, a perilous undertaking that will see 10,000 runners crisscross Japan for four months.

Tokyo billed itself as “a healthy pair of hands” when the International Olympic Committee awarded Japan the games 7 1/2 years ago. It has morphed into something entirely different.

The Japanese organizers did an outstanding job with the preliminary preparation and coordination. However, they have been buffeted by the pandemic and seem snake-bitten, with the Olympics causing new issues and increasing costs on a regular basis. According to numerous surveys, about 80% of Japanese people want the Olympics to be cancelled or postponed again. They point to the costs and dangers of staging the mega-event in the midst of a pandemic.

The Associated Press quoted Dr. Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, as saying, “The IOC and Japanese politics are male-dominated territories.” “Along with many other inequalities, Japanese leaders have a long history of fostering gender inequalities.”

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, was forced to resign in February after making sexist remarks about women talking too much in meetings.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the chairman of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to resign two years ago after a bribery scandal involving vote-buying by IOC officials.

Sasaki was in charge of the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies, which are set to start on July 23. He also planned a one-year-to-go event in July at Tokyo’s new National Stadium, which he built for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

He proposed to planning staff members in online “brainstorming exchanges” last year that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe participate as a “Olympig” in the ceremony.

Watanabe is a stocky young woman who is a fashion icon and well-known in Japan. Sasaki’s use of the phrase “Olympig” was a simple play on the word “Olympic.”

Bunshun, a weekly magazine, broke the news first, and the ensuing uproar erupted almost immediately.

Sasaki’s remarks were deemed “highly humiliating” by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

“We shouldn’t give a negative message when we talk about what we deliver from Tokyo or Japan,” Koike said on Thursday.

Sasaki announced his resignation in a tweet. He also said he had called the organizing committee’s president, Seiko Hashimoto, and offered his resignation.

“My suggestion and remarks are a major insult to Ms. Naomi Watanabe. And it’s inexcusable,” Sasaki said. “From the bottom of my heart, I express my deepest apologies and apologize to her and everyone else who might have been hurt by this.”

“It is deeply regrettable, and I sincerely apologize,” she said.

Hashimoto declared her approval of his resignation at a news conference on Thursday. She said that a replacement would be on the way soon and that she had attempted to convince him to stay.

“I felt that way at first, but he explained it to me, and his goal was clear,” Hashimoto said. “That’s exactly how I felt. As a result, I chose to accept his resignation.”

Hashimoto also said that she spoke with IOC member John Coates, who is in charge of Tokyo preparations.

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

Hashimoto, who has competed in seven Olympics and earned a bronze medal in 1992, took over as coach a month ago after Mori was fired for making similar sexist remarks. Hashimoto moved rapidly to name 12 women to the executive board of the organizing committee, bringing the total number of women on the board to 42 percent. It was 20% at the time.

Sasaki previously worked for Dentsu Inc., a major Japanese advertising firm that has been a strong supporter of the Olympics. It is the official marketing partner and has contributed to a record-breaking $3.5 billion in local funding, almost three times more than any previous Olympic Games.

The Olympic torch relay begins next week in northeastern Japan and will be a serious challenge, with 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months in order to reach the opening ceremony while avoiding the spread of COVID-19. Japan has done a better job of containing the virus than most other nations, with the virus being blamed for about 8,700 deaths.

Organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) say that the Olympics will go on during the pandemic, with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes expected to join Japan. Tokyo’s official costs are $15.4 billion, but many government audits indicate that the true cost could be twice as much.

According to a University of Oxford report, the Tokyo Olympics was the most costly on record.

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