Tokyo Olympic organising committee president, Yoshiro Mori, apologised on Thursday after he was harshly criticised for his sexist remarks.
Mori acknowledged that his remarks were “careless. I would like to offer an apology,” he told Kyodo News.
Later in the day, Mori told reporters he had no intention of resigning.
Speaking at an online meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) on Wednesday, Mori suggested that women talked too much at meetings of boards of directors.
“Board of directors’ meetings with many women take more time,” he said, according to local media.
The 83-year-old was referring to JOC’s plan to raise the percentage of women on its board of directors to 40 per cent. Currently only five of its 24 members are women.
“Women are competitive. When one person raises a hand to speak, others apparently feel compelled to speak up as well.
“So, everyone speaks,” he said, referring to his experience as a former president of the Japan Rugby Football Union.
“Somebody told me that if we increase the number of women, we have to also restrict their speaking time to an extent. Otherwise, they’ll never stop, which is problematic,” he said.
Mori also came in for criticism from a fellow member of the Japan Olympic Committee.
“Gender equality and consideration for people with disabilities were supposed to be a given for the Tokyo Games.
“It is unfortunate to see the president of the organising committee make such a remark,” JOC director Kaori Yamaguchi was quoted by Kyodo as saying.
Mori, who has had a long career in politics, was one of the most unpopular prime ministers in modern Japan. He was known for a string of gaffes and for low approval ratings.
His comment comes at a time when up to 80 per cent of the Japanese believe the Games will be postponed again or cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest surveys.
However, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organisers are pressing ahead with Games preparation.
Tokyo and its surrounding regions remain under a coronavirus state of emergency until March 7 amid a resurgence of virus infections.
Even before the postponement of the Games, many Japanese had expressed concerns about their surging costs.
Japan could end up spending more than 3 trillion yen (29 billion dollars), officials estimated.
This is four times the original budget of 734 billion yen when Tokyo was bidding for the 2020 Games in 2013, calling for a “compact Olympics.”