MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Japan’s three-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka said on Thursday that the resignation of former prime minister Yoshiro Mori as the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee was “really good” after calling his comments about women “ignorant”.
Mori, 83, stepped down as chair of the Olympic organising committee last week after saying women talked too much, a fresh blow to the Games, already marred by an unprecedented delay of a year due to the coronavirus pandemic and strong public opposition.
On Thursday, after about two weeks of international furore, he was replaced by Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympics, was born just days before Tokyo hosted the 1964 games, and was named after the Olympic flame.
“I feel like it’s really good because you’re pushing forward, barriers are being broken down, especially for females,” Osaka told a news conference after her victory in the semi-finals of the Australian Open over Serena Williams. “We’ve had to fight for so many things just to be equal. Even a lot of things we still aren’t equal.”
Women’s rights have come into public focus in Japan this week after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s male leaders said they wanted more women at key meetings – provided they join as silent observers and do not talk.
The Osaka, 23, who was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and was raised in the United States, is the poster girl of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She plans to represent Japan.
The first Asian tennis player to be ranked world No. 1, Osaka has been an outspoken supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement both in Japan and the United States, and was hailed last year for using her high profile to advance the cause.
(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski. Editing by Gerry Doyle)