Tokyo 2021 Olympics opening ceremony director sacked after comments
Posted On July 22, 2021
TOKYO – Organizers announced on Thursday that they had fired the director of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics after learning he had derided the Holocaust in a comedic routine.
The dismissal of the director, actor and director Kentaro Kobayashi, comes a little more than 24 hours before the scheduled start of the ceremony on Friday.
“We sincerely apologize for any offense and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world,” the organizing committee said in a statement.
Kobayashi said in a statement released by Tokyo 2020 that he remembered making the joke in question in 1998 and regretted it soon after.
“I understand my word choice was wrong, and I regret it,” he wrote in Japanese. “I apologize.”
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told a press conference that organizers were reviewing the entire program for the opening ceremony following Kobayashi’s sacking. Hashimoto said they learned of the joke on Wednesday morning and regretted not knowing it sooner.
“The overall responsibility lies with me,” she said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based global Jewish human rights organization, condemned Kobayashi’s comments in a statement released Wednesday. The center, citing Japanese press reports, said one of Kobayashi’s jokes included the phrase “let’s play the Holocaust.”
“Anyone, no matter how creative, has no right to make fun of the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center and director of global advocacy.
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Kobayashi’s sacking is the latest in a series of embarrassing moments for the organizing committee, and in particular for the opening ceremony team.
Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer, resigned from the Tokyo 2020 creative team earlier this week amid a backlash for harassing a disabled classmate as a child. And a former creative director of the opening ceremony, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March amid revelations he made sexist remarks about a well-known female artist in Japan, comparing her in a shoot. brainstorm to a pig.
Former organizing committee chairman Yoshiro Mori also resigned earlier this year after making sexist comments about women.
Organizers said Thursday that the crowd at the opening ceremony will be limited to around 950, including VIPs, government officials and foreign dignitaries. First Lady Jill Biden will be there as the head of the U.S. delegation, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it expects around 230 of its athletes to march in the ceremony.
Details on the content of the opening ceremony remain largely under wraps, although it is expected to have a darker and grateful note than other recent ceremonies, with COVID-19 likely a major theme.