The Japanese golf club at the centre of a sexism row has bowed to pressure from Olympic officials and will overturn restrictions on female membership.
The Kasumigaseki country club, north-west of Tokyo, was threatened with the loss of its status as a 2020 Olympics venue if it failed to grant women full membership rights. Under its existing rules, women were prohibited from playing on Sundays.
The private club in Saitama prefecture held three briefings for its members before it decided to fully admit women, which required unanimous approval from the board, made up of 15 men.
The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, Yoshirō Mori, praised the club, founded in 1929, for voting to uphold the spirit of the Olympic charter of non-discrimination.
“I’d like to extend my gratitude to the members of the club for their understanding and cooperation,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Before the decision, critics including the International Olympic Committee argued the club’s exclusionary policies contradicted the Olympic charter, which says every individual has the right to practise sport “without discrimination of any kind”.
The first female governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, has said she felt “very uncomfortable that women cannot become full members in this day and age”.
The change means Olympic organisers will not have to find a different golf venue. The IOC president, Thomas Bach, said last week that organisers were prepared to find another location “should gender equality not be respected”.
Kasumigaseki is not the only golf club to have faced calls to end outdated membership policies.
Scotland’s Muirfield golf course announced last week that it would admit female members for the first time in its 273-year history. Members endorsed the change after the result of an earlier ballot caused the club to be stripped of the right to host the prestigious Open championship.