Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympian who competed in seven Games, has taken over as Tokyo 2020’s new president after the previous chief was forced out over sexist comments.
She was named president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee on Thursday after a meeting of its male-dominated executive board.
She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister who was forced to resign last week after making sexist comments about women, saying they talk too much.
Following her appointment, Hashimoto said she would “spare no effort for the success of the Tokyo Games”.
“Now I’m here to return what I owe as an athlete and to return back what I received,” Hashimoto told the board, according to an interpreter.
Earlier on Thursday, the 56-year-old stepped down as one of just two women in Japan’s cabinet to take up her new post.
In addition to her role as the Olympic minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Hashimoto also held a portfolio dealing with gender equality and women’s empowerment.
She competed as a cyclist in three Summer Olympics and as a speedskater in four Winter Olympics. She won a bronze medal – her only medal – in 1992 in at 1,500 meters in speedskating.
Her appointment comes just over five months before the virus-postponed Games, with public opinion in Japan still largely against holding the massive event this year.
There are fears about bringing tens of thousands of athletes, fans, and support teams into Japan, which has controlled the coronavirus better than most countri