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The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday for a Holocaust joke he made on a comedy show in 1998.
The chairman of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said a day before the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi has been fired. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedic act, including the phrase “Let’s play Holocaust.”
“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi used a phrase in his own performance to ridicule a historic tragedy,” Hashimoto said. “We sincerely apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing trouble and concern for many parties involved, as well as for the people of Tokyo and the rest of the country.”
The opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games is scheduled for Friday evening. The ceremony will be held without spectators as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will be in attendance.
Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was expected to be used during the ceremony, was forced to resign due to past bullying from his classmates, which he bragged about in magazine interviews. The segment of his music will not be used.
Shortly after a video clip and script of Kobayashi’s performance were revealed, criticism flooded social media.
“Anyone, no matter how creative, has no right to make fun of the victims of Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and global social action director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization in Los Angeles. . He also noted that the Nazis gassed disabled Germans.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympic Games,” he said.
A former member of a popular comedy duo Rahmens, Kobayashi is known abroad for comedy series, including “The Japanese Tradition.”
The last-minute scandals come as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has been criticized for prioritizing the Olympics despite public health concerns amid a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
Kobayashi’s Holocaust joke and Oyamada’s firing were the last to ravage the Games. Yoshiro Mori has resigned as chairman of the organizing committee over sexist comments. Hiroshi Sasaki also stepped down as creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies after suggesting that a Japanese actress should dress like a pig.
Also this week, the US women’s wrestling team chiropractor apologized after comparing Olympic COVID-19 protocols to Nazi Germany in a social media post. Rosie Gallegos-Main, a women’s wrestling chiropractor since 2009, has been allowed to complete her planned stay at USA Wrestling’s pre-Olympic camp in Nakatsugawa, Japan.
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