The golf course lined up to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic tournament has been told to admit female members or lose the competition.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned Kasumigaseki Country Club that it will find an alternative venue unless the private members club changes its men-only membership regulations.
It is a further challenging situation for the IOC, who were last week left with only two potential hosts for the 2024 summer games after Budapest withdrew its bid to host the event.
“We will only go to a club that has non-discrimination, ” John Coates, vice-president of the IOC, said.
“It’s possible to go elsewhere but I think this is going to work out.
“As recently as this week there have been more discussions with the club. It’s heading in the right direction for them to have [a] non-discriminatory membership”, Coates added.
“We will only go to a club that has non-discrimination” – John COates, IOC vice-president
The lucrative members club, located in Saitama in north Tokyo, does not allow women to become members. Female play is also banned on a Sunday.
The IOC’s stance on the Tokyo golf event comes as the ruling body introduced tough new changes to its Host City Contract 2024, placing a string of human rights and anti-corruption regulations on potential host cities.
From 2024, only those cities which agree to “prohibit any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” will be considered as Olympic host venues.
“I AM uncomfortable that women can not become full members in the 21st century” – yiriko koike, tokyo governor
While Tokyo’s hosting of the Games will not strictly be governed by these regulations, the male-only policy of Japan’s leading top-level golf course is a clear contradiction of the IOC’s equality stance.
However, Kasumigaseki club chairman Kiichi Kimura was left “baffled” by the IOC’s demand, claiming the club had been approached to host the event without being consulted by the IOC about its membership policy.
A board meeting of the club in February failed to reach a decision about admitting female members, with Kimura claiming they would “discuss it further”.
Tokyo governor Yiriko Koike, who has pressed the club to alter its rules, said she felt “uncomfortable that women can not become full members in the 21st century.”
Earlier this year Muirfield club in Scotland held a second vote amongst members about permitting women to become members. The course was removed from the potential list of host venues for the prestigious Open Championship in May 2016 after its men-only membership failed to produce the required majority of votes in favour of beginning female association.
The result of the second vote is expected to be announced later this month.
—Alistair Sargent, (Correspondent, Sport)