Tokyo Olympics creative director Hiroshi Sasaki has resigned after making a derogatory comment about a popular female Japanese entertainer.
It is the latest controversy sparked by a sexist remark made by a Games official about women.
And with only four months left before the start of the event, the departure of the man in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies is yet another setback for the postponed Olympics.
It has emerged Mr Sasaki last year told planning staff that Naomi Watanabe – a famous entertainer in Japan – could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig”, a derogatory reference to her body shape.
This morning he released a statement, saying he had tendered his resignation and called the new president of the organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto, to tell her he was stepping down.
He said: “For Ms Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable.
“I offer my deepest regrets and apologise from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”
Watanabe expressed her “surprise” by the comments.
“In fact, I am happy with this body shape,” she said in a statement posted on her agency’s website.
“But, as a human being, I sincerely hope that the world will become a fun and prosperous place where we can respect and recognise each individual’s individuality and way of thinking.”
A Japanese government spokesman, Naoki Okada, said Mr Sasaki’s comment was “totally inappropriate”.
It comes just weeks after the now former president of the organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, was forced to quit after saying women talk too much.
His comments sparked fury in the country where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in boardrooms, and he was replaced by Ms Hashimoto.
Later when asked whether he truly believed women talked too much, he replied: “I don’t listen to women that much lately, so I don’t know.”
Also in February, the country’s ruling political party announced that women would be invited to attend key meetings – as long as they don’t speak.
The Liberal Democratic Party proposals allow five female politicians to join its all-male board meetings as observers, and submit any opinions afterwards.
The delayed Tokyo Olympics – now scheduled to open on 23 July – have been swamped with problems.
About 80% of Japanese in polls say the Games should be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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