TOKYO (AP) – The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony Thursday over a Holocaust joke he made during a 1998 comedy show.
Organizing committee chair Seiko Hashimoto announced a day before the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi had been fired. He was singled out for making a joke about the Holacaust in his act of comedy, employing the phrase “Let’s play the Holocaust.”
“We learned that Mr. Kobayashi, in his presentation, used a phrase that ridiculed a historical tragedy,” said Hashimoto. “We deeply apologize for causing this situation one day before the opening ceremony and causing problems and discomfort to many parties involved. , as well as the people of Tokyo and the rest of the world ”.
The opening ceremony of the postponed Olympics is scheduled for Friday night. The ceremony will be held without spectators to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although the presence of a limited number of leaders, guests and journalists will be allowed.
Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be used in the ceremony, had to resign after being harshly criticized for harassing his classmates during his childhood, including those with disabilities.
Oyamada spoke about the abuse in interviews he gave to Japanese magazines in the 1990s. The segment of his music will not be used.
Shortly after a video and transcript of Kobayashi’s performance were released, criticism abounded on social media.
“Anyone, no matter how creative, has no right to poke fun at the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, deputy dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights group in Los Angeles He also mentioned that the Nazis gassed Germans with disabilities.
“Any link of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and would be a cruel joke of the Paralympics,” he added.
Kobayashi was a former member of the Rahmens, a popular comedy duo, and became known for comedy series.
The scandals on the eve of the inauguration come just as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has come under fire for prioritizing the Olympics, despite a spike in coronavirus cases.
Kobayashi’s holocaust joke and Oyamada’s resignation add to a list of scandals that have rocked the Games. Yoshiro Mori resigned as chairman of the organizing committee resigned over sexist comments. Hiroshi Sasaki also resigned as creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies after suggesting that a Japanese actress dress up as a pig.
In this undated photo provided by Tokyo 2020 organizers, Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Tokyo 2020 via AP)