Seiko Hashimoto was named president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee on Thursday, replacing former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori. Mori resigned earlier in February after making sexist comments. Hashimoto's new job is an important step for Japan, a country that sits at 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum's annual gender equality ranking.
Hashimoto, 56, was previously the Olympic minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and will be replaced by Tamayo Marukawa. She has also held a portfolio focusing on gender equality and women's empowerment.
"Of course, it is very important what Tokyo 2020 as an organizing committee does about gender equality," she said, according to the AP. "I think it will be important for Tokyo 2020 to practice equality."
She comes into the job with support across the board, as International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said she is "the perfect choice" for the role.
"With the appointment of a woman as president, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee is also sending a very important signal with regard to gender equality," he said.
Japan's Naomi Osaka, who clinched a spot in the Australian Open finals on Thursday night, also praised the hire.
"I feel like it's really good because you're pushing forward, barriers are being broken down, especially for females," she said. "We've had to fight for so many things just to be equal. Even a lot of things we still aren't equal."
Hashimoto has direct experience as an athlete as well. She competed in seven Olympics -- four in the winter as a speedskater and three in the summer as a cyclist (the most by any multi-season athlete.)
The Olympics were postponed from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are still many people who believe the games will be pushed back again or canceled completely, as costs are rising and the logistics of keeping athletes from around the word safe seems difficult,