TOKYO (AP) – The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday over a Holocaust joke he made during a 1998 comedy show.
Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto announced the day before the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi had been fired. He was accused of using a Holocaust joke in his comedy number, including the phrase “Let’s play the Holocaust.”
“We learned that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, used a phrase that made fun of a historical tragedy,” Hashimoto said. “We deeply apologize for this development the day before the opening ceremony, as well as the concerns and concerns of many stakeholders, as well as people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.”
Scandals have erupted in Tokyo since the 2013 Olympic Games were announced. French investigators are examining alleged bribes paid to members of the International Olympic Committee to influence voting in Tokyo. These consequences prompted the resignation two years ago of Tsunekazu Takeda, who chaired the Japanese Olympic Committee and was a member of the IOC.
The opening ceremony for the Games, postponed until the pandemic, is scheduled for Friday. The ceremony will be held without spectators as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection, although some officials, guests and the media will be in attendance.
“We have an opening ceremony tomorrow, and yes, I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t like the opening of the Games,” Hashimoto said. “But we are going to open the Games tomorrow in this difficult situation.”
Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be used at the ceremony, was forced to resign due to bullying by classmates he bragged about in magazine interviews. An excerpt from his music will not be used.
Shortly after the video and script for Kobayashi’s speech were released, criticism flooded on social media.
“Anyone, no matter how creative, has no right to ridicule the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, deputy dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group. …
He also noted that the Nazis gassed the disabled Germans.
“Any joining of this man to the Tokyo Olympics would offend the memory of 6 million Jews and would be a brutal mockery of the Paralympic Games,” he said.
Kobayashi is a former member of the popular comedy duo, known abroad for comedy series, including Japanese Traditions.
Japan is promoting the Olympic Games against the advice of most medical experts. This is due in part to pressure from the IOC, which is estimated to suffer $ 3 billion to $ 4 billion in losses in television rights revenue if the Games are not held.
“Last year we were preparing to send a positive signal,” Hashimoto said. “Towards the end, there are so many incidents that create a negative image of Tokyo 2020.”
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, also admitted damage to his reputation.
“Perhaps these negative incidents will affect the positive message that we wanted to convey to the world,” he said.
Last-minute scandals have erupted as Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugi’s government has been criticized for prioritizing the Olympics despite health concerns amid resurgence of coronavirus infections.
Kobayashi’s Holocaust joke and Oyamada’s resignation were the final troubles for the Games. Yoshiro Mori resigns as president of the organizing committee because of sexist remarks. Hiroshi Sasaki also retired as creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies after inviting the Japanese actress to dress up as a pig.
Also this week, the chiropractor of the American women’s wrestling team apologized after comparing Olympic protocols COVID-19 in Nazi Germany In a social media post, Rosie Gallegos-Mine, the team’s chiropractor since 2009, will be admitted to completing a scheduled stay at the USA Wrestling pre-Olympic camp in Nakatsugawa, Japan.
More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
AP Sports writer Stephen Wade contributed to this report.
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