) — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony
on Thursday over a Holocaust
joke he made in 1998 during a comedy
Seiko Hashimoto, president
of the organizing committee, announced the dismissal of director Kentaro Kobayashi, who was accused of using a Holocaust joke in his comedy act, including the phrase "Let's play Holocaust," a day before the opening ceremony.
“We discovered that Mr. Kobayashi used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy in his own performance,” Hashimoto said, “and we deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony, as well as for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people
of Tokyo and the rest of the country.”
Since being awarded the Games in 2013, Tokyo has been plagued by scandals, with French investigators looking into alleged bribes paid to International Olympic Committee
members to influence
the vote for Tokyo, forcing the resignation of Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee and an IOC
member, two years ago.
The opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games is set for Friday; however, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus
infections, the ceremony will be held without spectators, though some officials, guests, and media will attend.
“We are going to have the opening ceremony tomorrow, and I am sure there are a lot of people who are not happy about the opening of the Games,” Hashimoto said, “but we are going to open the Games tomorrow under these difficult circumstances.”
Composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music
was to be used at the ceremony, was forced to resign earlier this week due to previous bullying
of his classmates, which he boasted about in magazine interviews; the segment of his music will not be used.
Critics flooded social media
shortly after a video clip and script of Kobayashi's performance were released
“No one has the right, no matter how creative, to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide
,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and global social action director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights
organization based in Los Angeles
He also mentioned how Nazis
gassed disabled Germans.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics
would be an insult to the memory of 6 million Jews, as well as a cruel mockery of the Paralympics
,” he said.
Kobayashi is a former member of the popular comedy duo Rahmens, and he is well-known in Japan for his work
on comedy series such as "The Japanese Tradition."
Japan is proceeding with the Olympics
despite the advice of the majority of its medical experts, in part due to pressure from the International Olympic Committee, which is estimated to lose $3 billion to $4 billion in television
rights revenue if the Games are not held.
“We have been preparing for the last year to send a positive message,” Hashimoto explained, “but now there are so many incidents that give a negative image toward Tokyo 2020
of the Tokyo organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, also acknowledged the reputational damage.
“Perhaps these negative incidents will have an impact
on the positive message we were hoping to send to the world,” he said.
The last-minute scandals come as Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga's government faces criticism for prioritizing the Olympics over public health
concerns in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak.
Yoshiro Mori, the organizing committee president, resigned over sexist remarks, and Hiroshi Sasaki resigned as creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies after suggesting a Japanese actress dress as a pig
Also this week, the American women
's wrestling team's chiropractor apologized after comparing Olympic COVID-19
protocols to Nazi Germany
in a social media post. Rosie Gallegos-Main, the team's chiropractor since 2009, will be allowed to complete her planned stay at USA Wrestling's pre-Olympic camp in Nakatsugawa, Japan.
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This story was contributed to by AP Sports Writer