TOKYO — Because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy event in 1998, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee dismissed the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday.
Director Kentaro Kobayashi has been fired, according to organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, who made the announcement a day before the opening ceremony. He was accused of using the line “Let’s play Holocaust” in a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy performance.”
“We discovered that Mr. Kobayashi utilized a term mocking a historical tragedy in his own performance,” Hashimoto added. “We sincerely regret generating such an incident the day before the opening ceremony, as well as for causing inconvenience and worry to many parties involved, as well as the people of Tokyo and the rest of the country.”
Since being awarded the Games in 2013, Tokyo has been beset by controversies. French authorities are investigating allegations of bribery given to members of the International Olympic Committee in order to sway the vote in favor of Tokyo. Tsunekazu Takeda, the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and an IOC member, resigned two years ago as a result of the consequences.
The pandemic-delayed Games will begin on Friday with an opening ceremony. To avoid the spread of coronavirus illnesses, the ceremony will be performed without spectators, however, certain officials, visitors, and journalists will be present.
“We are having the opening ceremony tomorrow, and certainly, I am sure there are a lot of people who are nervous about the Games starting,” Hashimoto remarked. “But, despite the difficulties, we are going to begin the Games tomorrow.”
Composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be played during the event, was forced to quit earlier this week due to the previous bullying of his peers, which he boasted about in magazine interviews. His music will not be used in this part.
Following the release of a video clip and screenplay of Kobayashi’s performance, social media was inundated with criticism.
“No one has the right to ridicule the victims of the Nazi genocide, no matter how clever they are,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and worldwide social action director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
He also said that the Nazis gassed disabled Germans.
“Any link of this individual with the Tokyo Olympics would be a horrible parody of the Paralympics and an insult to the memory of 6 million Jews,” he added.
Kobayashi is a former member of the renowned comedy team Rahmens and is recognized for comedy programs such as “The Japanese Tradition” in the United States.
Despite the recommendation of the majority of its medical professionals, Japan is going forward with the Olympics. This is partly due to pressure from the International Olympic Committee, which is expected to lose $3 billion to $4 billion in broadcast rights revenue if the Games are not staged.
The stated cost of the Olympics is $15.4 billion, but government audits indicate that it is likely far more. Except for $6.7 billion, it’s all taxpayer money.
“For the last year, we have been planning to deliver a good message, “According to Hashimoto. “At this point in time, there are so many instances that cast a poor light on Tokyo 2020.”
The reputational harm was also acknowledged by Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee.
“Perhaps these bad occurrences will have an influence on the good message we were hoping to send to the world,” he added.
Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University, stated on Twitter that the opening ceremony turmoil demonstrates a lack of multicultural understanding in Japan.
Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, claimed she learned about Koyayashi’s remarks from Hashimoto.
“I was taken aback,” she said.
The latest issues to beset the Games were Kobayashi’s Holocaust joke and Oyamada’s departure. Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, resigned after making sexist statements. Hiroshi Sasaki resigned as artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies after recommending that a Japanese actress dress up as a pig.
Also this week, the American women’s wrestling team’s chiropractor apologized on social media for equating Olympic COVID-19 protocols to Nazi Germany. Rosie Gallegos-Main, the team’s chiropractor since 2009, will be able to conclude her pre-Olympic training in Nakatsugawa, Japan, as scheduled.