TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo governor Naoki Inose apologized on Tuesday for criticizing Istanbul, a rival candidate for the 2020 Olympics.

Inose, also chairman of the bid committee, was quoted in the New York Times last weekend suggesting Istanbul was less developed and less equipped to host the games than the Japanese capital.

He said the article focused on a small number of comments relating to another bid city and did not reflect his sincere and wider thoughts on the bid campaign.

“I regrettably acknowledge, however, that some of my words might be considered inappropriate and consequently would like to offer my sincere apology,” Inose said.

In the interview conducted in New York, Inose said: “For the athletes, where will be the best place to be? Well, compare the two countries where they have yet to build infrastructure, very sophisticated facilities.”

He was also quoted as saying, “Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes.”

The governor’s comments appear to break International Olympic Committee rules prohibiting bid cities from commenting on rival candidates. The remarks could lead to a reprimand or warning from the IOC ethics commission.

Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda received an email from the IOC seeking confirmation of the facts of the matter, Kyodo News agency reported on Tuesday.

Takeda insisted Inose was fully aware of the IOC rules.

“Although his sincere thoughts differ from the content of the story published, he acknowledges that his comments related to another bid city and religion may have conflicted with the IOC guidelines and, as a result, offered his profound apologies,” Takeda said in a statement.

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, is bidding for a second straight time after a failed attempt for the 2016 Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro. Istanbul is bidding for a fifth time for its first games. Also competing for the host rights was Madrid.

The IOC will select the host city in September.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.