TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee on Thursday appointed Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s cabinet minister in charge of the Olympics and gender equality, to replace Yoshiro Mori, 83, who resigned last week in the wake of an international firestorm over sexist remarks.
The selection of Ms. Hashimoto, 56, an Olympic medalist in speedskating, represents a stark generational and gender shift for the committee, which had initially planned to name another octogenarian male leader, Saburo Kawabuchi, a former head of the governing body for Japanese soccer, as Mr. Mori’s replacement.
But last week, after Mr. Kawabuchi, 84, told reporters that he was prepared to accept an offer to succeed Mr. Mori, the organizing committee swiftly switched course, responding to an outcry on social media over Mr. Kawabuchi’s age, his apparent support for corporal punishment of children and the fact that he had been handpicked by Mr. Mori himself.
After Mr. Mori’s resignation last Friday, Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the organizing committee, announced the formation of a new selection committee, comprised half of men and half of women, to choose a successor.
A number of names had surfaced in the Japanese media, but Ms. Hashimoto always seemed to be the clear leader.
Ms. Hashimoto is a member of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s governing Liberal Democratic Party and has served in the upper house of Japan’s Parliament since 1995.
She was the second member of Parliament to give birth while in office, and in order to accommodate her, Parliament changed its rules to allow members to take time off for childbirth. Ms. Hashimoto took a week’s leave when her daughter was born.
As an Olympian, Ms. Hashimoto competed in a total of seven Summer and Winter Olympic Games in the 1980s and ’90s, competing in speedskating and cycling. She won a bronze medal in the 1,500-meter speedskating event at the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, in 1992.
Ms. Hashimoto entered politics when Mr. Mori was secretary-general of the Liberal Democrats, and she joined his political faction, one of a handful of influential groupings that can determine the careers of lawmakers in Japan.
“I think Ms. Hashimoto was selected so that Mr. Mori’s influence can be maintained,” said Atsuo Ito, an independent political analyst and former staff member for both the Liberal Democrats and the opposition Democratic Party. “She’s a puppet of Mr. Mori.”
Kazuko Fukuda, a women’s rights activist and one of the authors of a Change.org petition that had criticized Mr. Mori’s remarks, said she was glad the Olympic committee had ultimately “really valued the people’s voices” and changed course after its initial selection to replace Mr. Mori.
“It seemed like it was already decided without any meeting or discussion,” Ms. Fukuda said. “For a long time, everything was decided at the dinner table after work, so that many people who have to do care work, mainly women, could not join the important decision-making process, which really disservices women.”
Makiko Inoue and Hisako Uenocontributed reporting.