Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, has been fired for comments he made about the Holocaust in a 1998 comedy routine.
Tokyo 2020 / AP
Tokyo 2020 / AP
Tokyo 2020 / AP
TOKYO – Just one day before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, Japanese organizers have fired the program director for earlier comments about the Holocaust. It’s another setback for the turbulent event the same week that the composer of the ceremony was expelled.
It is still unclear how director Kentaro Kobayashi’s last-minute departure will affect the ceremony, which is expected to be an elaborate production that unfolds over the course of three hours on Friday morning ET.
“We are currently discussing how we are going to handle the ceremony,” the president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, told reporters on Thursday.
Kobayashi, who is a comedian, allegedly made an anti-Semitic joke about the Holocaust on a 1998 show.
That act supposedly had a part titled “Let’s Play the Holocaust.” It recently resurfaced in the Japanese media in the run-up to the opening ceremony.
Kobayashi is also said to have intimidated people with disabilities.
“We are facing a lot of challenges right now,” Hashimoto acknowledged on Thursday. “Perhaps that is the reason why these negative incidents will affect the messages we want to convey to the world. The value of Tokyo 2020 remains exciting and we want to send our messages to the world.”
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the comments of the former director.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics,” said SWC associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper in a statement.
The organizers of the opening ceremony are also struggling due to last minute changes in music after the composer resigned. In interviews in the 1990s, Keigo Oyamada bragged about bullying people as a student, including classmates with disabilities.
Oyamada, known as Cornelius, resigned on Monday after Japanese officials reversed his original decision to allow him to keep his post. Finally, the organizers also decided not to use their composition in the ceremony.
“As far as the Opening Ceremony is concerned, this is a very critical matter, therefore it is important that we organize a respectable Opening Ceremony. We will do everything we can to achieve it,” Hashimoto said Tuesday.
Hashimoto herself became head of the organizing committee after her predecessor resigned in February. Yoshiro Mori sparked outrage when he made comments suggesting that women talk too much at board meetings.
And in March, the creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies resigned after making disparaging remarks about a Japanese comedian.
Despite all the rotation of the organizers of the opening ceremony, including its most central figure a day before, the show will continue tomorrow. It is the official start of the Games that were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.