Seiko Hashimoto, the new head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, has said she deeply regrets her behavior from seven years ago, when she faced scrutiny over reports she’d made unwanted advances towards a sportsman during the Sochi Olympics.
Days after her predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, resigned after making derogatory remarks about women, Hashimoto addressed media questions about an incident in 2014 when a magazine ran photographs of her making apparently unwanted advances towards a figure skater, Daisuke Takahashi, during a party after the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“Both then and now, I deeply regret my behaviour,” she said.
Hashimoto denied any wrongdoing at the time, claiming she had simply shown Takahashi the same affection she would other athletes, who often “hug and kiss each other very naturally”. But she added: “If this invited misunderstanding from other people, I regret it and think I should be careful.”
Takahashi did not lodge a formal complaint and did not think he had been a victim of sexual harassment, his agent said at the time.
Hashimoto, who competed in seven Summer and Winter Olympics as a cyclist and a skater, now faces a raft of tough issues at the helm of one of the world’s biggest sporting events with less than half a year before its delayed start.
She must ensure athletes and officials are kept safe from the coronavirus, while also facing strong public opposition to the Games being held amid the pandemic.
Her appointment was welcomed by the International Olympic Committee which had not demanded Mori’s resignation and had initially considered the case closed after his first apology and refusal to step down.
“With her great Olympic experience….and having led Japan’s delegation to the Olympic Games multiple times, she is the perfect choice for this position,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.