By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Sexist comments by Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori are further evidence that the whole sporting system needs a shake-up, Women's Sport Trust chief executive Tammy Parlour said on Thursday.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Mori, 83, apologised for saying women talked too much in meetings but said he would not resign despite a storm of criticism on social media.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it considered the issue closed.
"The athletes that I’ve spoken to have been in utter disbelief as far as the comments go, but this sort of attitude and these sort of comments have been happening behind the scenes for years, for decades," Parlour told Reuters.
She said a WhatsApp group of elite athletes was buzzing at the 'jaw-dropping' story but the situation was not all negative.
"The fact that it’s actually getting called out now is really positive in my view and it provides an opportunity to talk about this," said Parlour.
"At the same time I think it’s important to not just focus on the comments because I see the comments as a symptom and the cause is not having enough diversity and inclusion plumbed across the whole system."
Mori's words invited comparison with other elderly male sports leaders who have triggered controversy for sexist remarks.
Sepp Blatter, the former head of world soccer body FIFA, made headlines in 2004 when he suggested women should play in tighter shorts than men.
Ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, whose sport has not had a female driver in a race since 1976, joked in 2005 that women should dress in white like 'other domestic appliances'.
Parlour said the system needed shaking up but suggested progress was being made, citing as evidence the response to online abuse aimed at former England international and television pundit Karen Carney.
Carney deleted her Twitter account after her remarks about Leeds United were ridiculed by the Premier League club's official account.
"If you look at the whole Karen Carney incident... actually a lot of male allies were standing up and saying ‘Look, this isn’t right,'" said Parlour.
"I think it’s a massive turning point, people are starting to speak up and say ‘This isn’t actually what should be happening and we need to re-look at the system'.”
Parlour said change was needed to stay relevant, progressive, creative and attract new audiences and revenue streams -- and there was a strong appetite for that in countries such as Britain.
"We’ve got to look beyond gender as well, we’ve got to diversify. The industry is too white as well," she said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)