Japan Olympic minister steps down after series of gaffes

Japan`s Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada resigns after latest gaffe

Japan`s Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada resigns after latest gaffe

The Yomiuri ShimbunYoshitaka Sakurada, the minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday to take responsibility for controversial remarks he made in a speech.

Sakurada, at a party earlier Wednesday for Hinako Takahashi - a ruling lawmaker from Iwate, one of the prefectures severely hit by the disaster - said Takahashi is more important than reconstruction. "I deeply apologise for his remark to the people in the disaster-hit areas", Abe said, adding he accepted responsibility for appointing Sakurada as the minister.

Abe has chose to ask lower house lawmaker Shunichi Suzuki, who was Olympic minister before Sakurada took the post last October, to fill the vacancy, public broadcaster NHK said. As Abe's Liberal Democratic Party gears up for a series of elections through July, the prime minister's decision to oust Sakurada from the government is seen as a damage-control effort.

Former Olympic minister Shunichi Suzuki is expected to return to the post to replace Sakrada, Japanese media reports said. "As prime minister, I would like to offer my deep apology for the comment".

Gaffe-prone Sakurada said last month that it was fortunate that arterial roads in northern Japan remained operational following the disaster.

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In February, Sakurada had expressed disappointment at swimmer Rikako Ikee's diagnosis of leukemia, suggesting it would dampen enthusiasm for the Olympics: "I'm really disappointed", and added, "I'm anxious that the swell [for the Games] might go down a bit".

Sakurada, who also doubled as cybersecurity strategy chief, said in November that he did not use a computer.

Sakurada, first elected to the House of Representatives in 1996, then called the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit prefectures, "Ishimaki" a couple of times during a parliamentary session on Tuesday.

Sakurada is the eighth Cabinet minister to resign since Abe returned to power in 2012.

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