February 18, 2021
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
February 18, 2
It’s official. Olympic medalist Seiko Hashimoto is the new chief of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.
“As a former athlete myself, I believe my mission is to bring about an Olympics that places priority on safety for all participants and to change the mood in society so all athletes can step on their dream stage without any doubts in their mind,” Hashimoto said at a news conference on Feb. 18 after being named the new organizing committee president. “I will seek to accomplish this mission while clearly taking the stance of ‘athletes first.’”
Hashimoto told reporters earlier that she informed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of her decision to accept the offer and submitted her resignation as state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Regulations prohibit ministers from holding concurrent positions outside of government.
She said Suga told her to do her best so the Tokyo Olympics will become an event that all Japanese can welcome. He pledged to provide the government's total support, she said.
Suga named Upper House member Tamayo Marukawa as state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, a post she previously held under then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Hashimoto, 56, succeeds Yoshiro Mori, 83, the former prime minister who was forced to resign after an international uproar arose over his sexist remarks.
Eight members of the candidate selection committee within the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee held their third meeting on the morning of Feb. 18 and settled on Hashimoto as their choice.
The selection committee recommended her candidacy at a meeting of executive board members of the organizing committee on the afternoon of Feb. 18. The board members approved of the choice.
A meeting of councilors of the organizing committee then formally selected Hashimoto as an executive board member because the organizing chief’s post must go to such members.
Another meeting of executive board members elected her president of the organizing committee.
“I have been given a very heavy responsibility,” Hashimoto said at that meeting. “While it was a very major decision for me to resign as a state minister, I appear at this forum because of my total commitment to making every effort for a successful Tokyo Olympics.”
Organizing committee officials also announced on Feb. 18 that Mori had resigned as both president and executive board member as of Feb. 12.
Hashimoto has been closely linked to the Olympics from the time she was born. Born five days before the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Hashimoto was named Seiko because her father was deeply moved by the Olympic torch relay around Japan.
She competed in seven Olympics, both winter and summer. At the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, she became the first Japanese woman to win a medal in speed skating, taking the bronze in the 1,500-meter event.
She was elected to the Upper House in 1995, running under the ruling Liberal Democratic Party banner. But she continued her athletic training and took part in the Atlanta Olympics the following year in a cycling event.
Hashimoto gave birth to a daughter in 2000, the year of the Sydney Olympics. The daughter’s name, Seika, is the Japanese reading of the characters for the Olympic flame.
Around that time, debate arose about the lack of maternity leave for lawmakers.
Pushed by Hashimoto’s pregnancy, the Upper House that year approved “giving birth” as a legitimate reason for being absent from a session, which served as a catalyst for parental leave for Diet members.