Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organising committee, said on Thursday he would not resign despite pressure on him to do so after making derogatory comments earlier in the week about women.
The controversy over the gaff-prone former Japanese prime minister is a further problem facing Tokyo Olympics organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as they try to pull off the postponed games in the midst of a pandemic. They are scheduled to open on July 23.
"I am not thinking of resigning," Mori said. "I have been working hard and helped devotedly for seven years. I will not be stepping down".
In an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors earlier in the week, daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that Mori said women talk too much in meetings. His comments have created a storm in Japan where women are grossly underrepresented in politics and in board rooms.
"The statement made at the Japan Olympic Committee was an inappropriate expression, contrary to the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics," Mori said. "I am deeply remorseful. I would like to withdraw the statement. I would like to apologise for any unpleasant feelings".
In the meeting, Asahi quoted Mori as saying: "Women are very competitive. When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something".
His comment came when he was asked about the presence of the small number of women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
"If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments. I’m not saying who that is," he was reported to have said.
The Tokyo Olympics he leads are already swamped with problems.
According to polls, about 80 per cent of Japanese say the games should be postponed or cancelled in the midst of a pandemic.
They also cited rising costs that may total more than $25 billion (€20.8 billion) to host the Olympics as another issue.