Seiko Hashimoto: who is the former athlete and new Olympic Games president?

Seiko Hashimoto is the new head of the Olympic Games. Last February, Japan's Seiko Hashimoto was appointed President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, replacing Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after making sexist remarks, associating the committee meetings' lack of productivity with women.

The appointment of the 56-year-old former athlete, who competed three times in the Olympic Games and four times in the Winter Olympics, is seen as an important signal in a country where women are seldom found in such positions. Hashimoto was also the Olympic and Paralympic Games Minister (she was one of two women in the cabinet) since September 2019, but now she will commit her time entirely to the Olympics. 


Hashimoto's story

Seiko Hashimoto's personal history has many connections with the Olympic Games. She was born in Hokkaido, Northern Japan, five days after the opening ceremony of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Her name, "Seiko", comes from "Seika", which is Japanese for "Olympic flame". Seiko Hashimoto was listening to her father say "you were born to go to the Olympic Games" before she could even know what those were.

The new head of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee competed at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics in track cycling and the Winter Games in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1994 as an ice speed skater.

Hashimoto won a bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, in the 1 500 metres ice speed skating competition.

The former athlete began to combine sport and politics from the mid-1990s onwards. She earned her place in politics and has been recognised over the years for her fight for gender equality and the conciliation of work and family. She's the mother of six children, three of them stepchildren. 


Changes for now

Meanwhile, the Committee responsible for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has appointed 12 other women to the Executive Board.

The new President also recognised the importance of having a live audience at the event venues, but that will always depend on the pandemic's evolution. "When we think about the possibility of holding the Olympics without fans in the stands... athletes will definitely wonder why there are no fans just on the Olympics and Paralympics when other competitions are allowing in spectators," Hashimoto said.

Besides the hard preparation that the athletes from all over the world are keeping, "everyone wants an early decision about the direction to be taken regarding fans to prepare tickets and hotel accommodations", she said.

Nevertheless, a final decision on holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games won't be made until June, even though the opening ceremony is scheduled for July 23. The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, expects the Games to be "successful", despite the uncertainty.

Just five months before the Tokyo 2020 Games, postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission awaiting Sashimoto is huge, as Japanese public opinion is still mostly against the event for fear of worsening the health crisis.

The Games will be a sign of hope for the world in the aftermath of the pandemic. Sportsmen and sportswomen from all over the world, unite!, in the hope that in the summer of 2021 the games can actually take place!