Tokyo 2020 / AP
TOKYO – Just a day before the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese organizers fired the show’s director over earlier comments about the Holocaust. It’s another setback for the troubled event of the same week the ceremony composer was kicked out.
It’s unclear how the last-minute departure of director Kentaro Kobayashi will affect the ceremony, which is expected to be an elaborate production taking place over three hours Friday morning ET.
“How we will handle the ceremony is currently under discussion,” Organizing Committee Chair Seiko Hashimoto said Thursday.
Kobayashi, who is a comedian, allegedly made an anti-Semitic Holocaust joke on a 1998 show.
This act would have had a part titled “Let’s play Holocaust.” It has recently resurfaced in 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 admitted Thursday. “Perhaps this is the reason why these negative incidents will have an impact on the messages we want to convey to the world. The value of Tokyo 2020 is always exciting and we want to send our messages to the world.”
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the former director’s comments on Wednesday.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and cruelly mock the Paralympic Games,” SWC associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement.
The organizers of the opening ceremony are also scrambling over last-minute changes to the music after the composer’s resignation. In interviews in the 1990s, Keigo Oyamada bragged about harassing people when he was a student, including his disabled classmates.
Oyamada, known as Cornelius, resigned on Monday after Japanese authorities reversed their initial decision to let him retain his role. In the end, the organizers also decided not to use her makeup during the ceremony.
“Regarding the opening ceremony, this is a very critical issue, so it is important that we have a respectable opening ceremony. We will make every effort to that end,” Hashimoto said on Tuesday. .
Hashimoto herself became head of the organizing committee after her predecessor’s resignation 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 derogatory remarks about a Japanese actress.
Despite all the turnover of the organizers of the opening ceremony – including its most central figure the day before – the show will continue tomorrow. This is the official kickoff for the Games which have been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.