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Former Athlete Replaces Tokyo Olympics Chief

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Japan's Olympics Minister Hashimoto attends a news conference at PM Abe's official residence in Tokyo

Former Japanese athlete Seiko Hashimoto has become the new president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizing committee after Yoshiro Mori resigned following sexist remarks about women.

Hashimoto, a 56-year-old lawmaker in Japan’s ruling party, participated in seven Summer and Winter Olympics as a skater and a cyclist.

She was named president of the committee after a meeting with a male-dominated executive board.

Hashimoto replaced Mori, the 83-year-old former prime minister.

Mori said at a Feb. 3 Olympics board of trustees meeting that women talk too much, declaring that “board meetings with lots of women take longer” because “if one member raises her hand to speak, others might think they need to talk, too.”

Mori retracted his comments and apologized the next day and said he would not resign before stepping down last week.

His remarks, which were leaked to Japanese media, sparked public debate in the country about gender equality and fueled concerns over the feasibility of holding the games later this year.

Organizers previously made the risky decision to begin the Games on July 23 in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic with 11,000 athletes.

Hashimoto is tasked with ensuring athletes and others are protected from the coronavirus in the face of strong public opposition to the Games.

“As someone with an athletic background, I will carry out a safe Games for both athletes and citizens,” Hashimoto said at a news conference.

More than 80% of the Japanese public believes the games should be cancelled or postponed, according to recent polls.