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Tokyo Olympics sees hundreds of volunteer resignations after Mori remarks

Yoshiro Mori, the top Japanese official on the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, has refused to step down after making derogatory remarks about women. File Photo by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/EPA-EFE
Yoshiro Mori, the top Japanese official on the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, has refused to step down after making derogatory remarks about women. File Photo by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/EPA-EFE

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Hundreds of volunteers in Japan have resigned after the top Japanese official on the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee made derogatory remarks about women.

A total of 390 volunteers are exiting teams preparing for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games after Yoshiro Mori, 83, said women drag out committee meetings with chatter, NHK reported Tuesday.

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"If we are to increase the number of women, we must also regulate the amount of time given," Mori had said during discussions about increasing the percentage of women on the committee.

Mori apologized last week for his remarks but said he does not plan to resign despite public outcry.

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A poll conducted from Friday to Saturday by local newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun showed 91% of survey respondents said Mori's remarks are a "problem."

A Kyodo News poll taken over the weekend also showed 59.9% of respondents said Mori was unfit to continue to serve as chairman of Japan's Olympic committee.

Japanese ruling party politicians criticized the decision of the local volunteers Tuesday. Liberal Democratic Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai defended Mori and slammed volunteers for making a "spur-of-the-moment decision."

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Nikai said the resignations will not have an impact since volunteers can be replaced, according to Kyodo.

Japanese officials are not happy with Nikai's remarks. Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said the resignations "weigh very heavily" and said Nikai's remarks are inappropriate in light of recent events.

Volunteers leaving the Olympics represent only a small fraction of the 80,000-strong volunteer workforce for the Summer Games. According to NHK, the Japanese Olympic Committee has received about 4,000 complaint calls and letters about Mori's remarks.

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Last week, local comedian Atsushi Tamura withdrew from the Olympic Torch Relay, citing his disagreement with Mori.

Human Rights Watch has responded to the recent controversy. In a statement released last week, the international watchdog said women in Japan are "severely stigmatized" if they complain of discrimination.

"Government figures show that more than 95 percent of sexual violence incidents are not reported to police," the group said.

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