Japan appointed on Thursday April 11th a new Olympics minister to replace a gaffe-prone politician forced to resign after the latest in a string of embarrassing mistakes, according to AFP.
With less than 500 days to go until the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to ask lower house lawmaker Shunichi Suzuki, who was Olympic minister before Yoshitaka Sakurada took the post last October, to fill the vacancy. Abe told reporters he re-appointed the "experienced" Suzuki, who had served between 2017 and 2018.
"I hope Mr Suzuki... will recover trust (among the public) and lead us towards a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games," Abe told reporters.
Suzuki's appointment came after his predecessor Yoshitaka Sakurada submitted his resignation late on Wednesday over remarks that offended people affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdown in 2011.
He reportedly told a political gathering that securing the re-election of a local lawmaker was more important than recovery in the disaster-affected areas where more than 18,000 people died.
More than 50,000 people have not returned to their home towns following the disaster, and Japan has dubbed the 2020 Games the "Reconstruction Olympics" in a bid to showcase recovery in affected regions.
"We regret the news that in the midst of accelerating preparations and with less than 500 days to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games, the minister responsible for the Games has resigned," Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.
Suzuki on Thursday said Sakurada's comments were "inappropriate" and vowed to push forward with the reconstruction of the ill-fated regions.
"It is the Abe government's unwavering policy to do everything we can for recovery while keeping in touch with the feelings of people in disaster-hit areas ... As prime minister, I would like to offer my deep apology for the comment."