Before resigning in disgrace, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee pushed to have former Yankees player Hideki Matsui light the flame in Tokyo rather than tennis star Naomi Osaka because he wanted someone who was “pure Japanese,” according to a report.
“(Yoshiro) Mori wanted ‘Godzilla’ to light the Olympic flame at the end, not Naomi Osaka,” an employee for the committee claimed to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity due to a non-disclosure agreement.
The employee told the outlet that the 83-year-old had told the staff that “[Matsui] is a pure Japanese man and a baseball champion in the US and Japan—the embodiment of fighting spirit.”
Osaka, who is half Japanese and half Haitian, has lived and trained in the US since age 3.
Mori was forced to resign in February after reportedly making sexist comments, saying that women speak too much in meetings and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.”
Mori has served as honorary chairman of Matsui’s fan club in Ishikawa Prefecture, where the 47-year-old former baseball player was born, according to the outlet.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka lights the cauldron during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The official also allegedly just thought Matsui’s nickname was funny, given the occasion, the staffer told the outlet.
“Funny in the sense that Godzilla breathes flames, and Matsui would be lighting the cauldron,” the employee said.
An employee with PR firm Dentsu — which is exclusively partnered with the Games — who worked on the opening ceremony told outlet that “Mori wanted Matsui. If he wanted something changed or something done, then it was done. Mori was practically the voice of God.”
Matsui eventually took part in the opening ceremonies as a torchbearer.
Osaka, 23, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, last month revealed that she had kept the lighting of the Olympic cauldron a secret since March.
Shigeo Nagashima, Hideki Matsui and Sadaharu Oh carry the olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
“When I lit the flame, I was super honored,” she said. “I think that’s a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it. So, for me, when they asked me if I wanted to, I was very surprised but very honored. And I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo.”
Osaka’s dreams for Olympic gold were dashed when she was eliminated early.