TOKYO: Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee, speaks during a press conference after the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board meeting in Tokyo yesterday. – AFP

TOKYO: Tokyo 2020’s new president Seiko Hashimoto yesterday vowed to “regain trust” in the Olympic organizing committee after an embarrassing sexism row, with just over five months until the virus-postponed Games. Hashimoto, a seven-time Olympian, had been one of just two women in Japan’s cabinet, serving as Olympic minister before stepping down to take the key post. She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after saying women talk too much in meetings, sparking outcry in Japan and abroad.

“I’m sure the Games are going to attract more attention related to gender equality, and in this regard I am determined to regain trust, by my fullest endeavors,” she said after her appointment. She pledged to increase the number of women on the Tokyo 2020 executive board from around 20 percent to 40 percent, and urged Olympic torchbearers and volunteers who had quit in protest at Mori’s comments to return.

Until yesterday, Hashimoto, 56, was also minister for gender equality and women’s empowerment. “I recognize that there is still a lot of conscious division of roles according to gender (in Japan). What can be done to change that through the organizing committee’s reforms is important,” she said. She had reportedly been reluctant to take on the job, and will face an uphill struggle to win over the public before the Games are due to open on July 23.

Anti-infection measures should be Tokyo 2020’s “top priority”, she said, pledging to work to “ensure that the public both domestically and abroad feel this is going to be a safe and secure Olympic Games”. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Hashimoto’s years as a sprint cyclist and speed skater — winning bronze in 1992 — would be good preparation. “She has experience of competing at the summer and winter Olympics seven times. I want her to work hard to firmly realize the philosophy of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics by making use of that experience,” he said. – AFP