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Tokyo Games volunteers pulling out after committee chief Mori's sexist remarks

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee, discusses his own remarks about female board members, at a news conference in Tokyo's Chuo Ward on Feb. 4, 2021. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- A growing number of people appear to be turning away from volunteering for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in part of the wider fallout from sexist remarks by the event's organizing committee chief.

    "I'd just attended a meeting for volunteers the other day, but now my motivation is gone," said a 54-year-old man who lives in the east Japan prefecture of Saitama. He applied to volunteer because he "wanted to contribute to the local area," and was supposed to guide visitors at stations near games venues in the prefecture.

    However, he said he was thinking about not doing the volunteer activities following remarks by Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games committee president Yoshiro Mori, 83, that meetings with women present "drag on." The man explained, "I watched president Mori's press conference to retract his remarks, but I wasn't convinced his thoughts had changed," he said, adding: "I felt like he was shifting the blame."

    In the wake of the controversy, posts reading "I'm pulling out from volunteering" appeared one after another on Twitter. Michiko Saito, 56, a member of nonprofit organization Utsukushima Sports Rooters in the east Japan city of Fukushima and a volunteer for the games, said: "I'm sad because I feel like Japan is made to look behind the times by having someone who makes such anachronistic statements at the helm of an organization. That he can make remarks about women like that makes me doubtful that he really understands the purpose of volunteers and Olympics principles. I understand the feelings of those turning away from volunteering."

    According to the organizing committee, about 80,000 volunteers are set to participate in the games. While some had already withdrawn due to the games' postponement, the effects of Mori's remarks are a cause for concern.

    Around noon on Feb. 4, a 39-year-old man was seen protesting with a loudspeaker in front of the Shinjuku Ward building housing the Japanese Olympic Committee. "The principle of the Olympics is to create a world without boundaries in issues such as gender, race and disability," he said. "The remarks trample on the efforts of people working hard every day in a final bet on the possibility of holding the Olympics."

    (Japanese original by Jun Kaneko, Tomoko Igarashi and Shohei Oshima, City News Department)

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