The creative director of the opening ceremony of thewas fired on Thursday, one day before the scheduled date of the event. Kentaro Kobayashi, who was once a member of a popular comedy duo, was fired after a video of a comedy routine he performed in the 1990s surfaced in which he appeared to be joking about the Holocaust.
“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, used a phrase that ridiculed a historic tragedy,” Olympic Organizing Committee chairwoman Seiko Hashimoto said, according to the Associated Press.
“We deeply apologize for causing such a development on the eve of the opening ceremony and for causing problems and concerns to many parties involved as well as to the people of Tokyo and the rest of the country,” he added.
Kobayashi’s sacking is the latest in a string of high-profile dismissals and resignations of officials involved in the Tokyo Games.
Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be used at Friday’s ceremony, was forced to resign due to his history of bullying, which he bragged about in the press. In March, Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative chief of the Olympics, resigned after shaming a tall comedian and in February, organizing committee chairman Yoshiro Mori resigned over sexist comments.
Sayuri Shirai, professor of economics at Keio University in Japan, told CBS News that the international spotlight created by the Olympics creates a sort of tally.
“Discrimination has never been a major problem, so a lot of people are careless,” she said, arguing that the largely insular and homogeneous Japanese society has created a lack of awareness of ethnic, religious, national and gender.
“A lot of foreign media is paying so much attention (to the Olympics), so every negative issue is in the spotlight… People are starting to be more sensitive to discriminatory expressions,” she said, adding that she thought the series of scandals was a “good opportunity for Japan” to think more about discrimination and diversity.
Shirai also said that angerfueled some of the reviews of the games.
“A lot of Japanese are very angry to have a special ceremony for the IOC when many restaurants are in a state of emergency,” she told CBS News, “so that anger leads to stronger criticism “.