The organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday (22/7) fired the director of the Games’ opening ceremony for a Holocaust joke he made at a comedy show in 1998.
Organizing committee chairman Seiko Hashimoto said the day before the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi had been fired. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy show, which included the words, “Let’s play the Holocaust.”
“We found that Kobayashi, in his performances, had used words mocking historical tragedies,” Hashimoto said.
“We sincerely apologize for causing this kind of development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing trouble and concern for many parties involved as well as the people of Tokyo and all of Japan,” Hashimoto continued.
Tokyo has been beset by scandal since it was decided to host the Games in 2013. French investigators are investigating allegations of bribes being paid to members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to influence support for Tokyo. This forced the resignation of Tsunekazu Takeda two years ago. Takeda chaired the Japanese Olympic Committee and was a member of the IOC at the time.
The opening ceremony of the sporting event which was postponed due to the pandemic is scheduled to take place Friday (23/7). The ceremony will be held without spectators as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus cases, although some officials, guests and the media will attend.
“We will have the opening ceremony tomorrow and, yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who are uncomfortable with the opening of the Olympics,” Hashimoto said. “But we will open the Olympics tomorrow under this difficult situation.”
Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music will be played at the opening ceremony, was forced to resign because of his past. He boasts of his past, which bullied his classmates, in a magazine interview. The music segment will not be played.
Shortly after the video clip and screenplay regarding Kobayashi’s appearance was revealed, criticism flooded social media.
“Everyone, no matter how creative, has no right to laugh at the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization.
He also suggested that the Nazis killed German citizens with disabilities with poison gas.
“This man’s association with the Tokyo Olympics would be an insult to the memory of 6 million Jews and a scornful mockery of the Paralympics,” he continued.
Kobayashi is a former member of a popular comedian duo and is well known overseas for his comedy series, among them The Japanese Tradition. Japan continues to run the Olympics against the advice of most of its medical experts. This is partly due to pressure from the IOC, which is expected to lose 3 to 4 billion dollars in television rights revenue if the Olympics are cancelled. [uh/ab]