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Olympics opening ceremony director sacked for Holocaust joke

The show director for the opening ceremony of the Olympics was sacked a day before the event took place.

Images of Kentaro Kobayashi from the 1990s have recently emerged in which he appears to be making jokes about the Holocaust.

Japan’s Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto said the video ridiculed “painful facts in history.”

The layoff is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the Games.

Tokyo 2020 – postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has constantly threatened to derail the event – has seen three men forced to resign since the start of 2021.

  • And in February, Yoshiro Mori was forced to step down as head of the organizing committee after making remarks about the women who were criticized as “inappropriate.” Mr Mori is said to have said that women talk too much and that meetings with many female directors “will take a long time”

The latest scandal has seen former comedian Mr. Kobayashi heavily criticized for a skit he performed 23 years ago, in which he and another comedian claim to be children’s artists.

In the sketch, Mr. Kobayashi turns to his colleague, referring to some paper dolls, saying they are “from the time when you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust’,” according to the news agency. AFP.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the comments “outrageous and unacceptable,” while Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the US Holocaust research organization Simon Wiesenthal Center, said: “Anyone, no matter how creative. she does not have the right to make fun of the victims of the Nazi genocide.

Mr. Kobayashi also issued a statement in response to his dismissal.

“Entertainment shouldn’t make people uncomfortable. I understand my stupid choice of words back then was bad, and I regret it,” he said.

Friday’s ceremony, which Suga says should go ahead as planned, will officially kick off two weeks of competition.

However, after Mr Kobayashi’s impeachment, organizers are now reassessing how to organize Friday’s event – which will only be watched by around 950 people in the stadium, in order to minimize the risks.

“With the opening ceremony so imminent, we apologize for causing concern to those involved in the Olympics, the citizens of Tokyo and the Japanese public,” Hashimoto said in a statement.

The scandals have done little to stop the massive unease about the Games. The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic committee admitted this week that he is not ruling out a cancellation, even at this late stage.

Despite concerns, the first events are underway – opening Wednesday with a softball game between Japan and Mexico

A recent poll found that about 55% of Japanese people were opposed to holding the Games, fearing they would become a coronavirus super-spread event, Reuters news agency reported.

Already, organizers are facing a growing number of Covid cases. Dozens of people involved in the Games – including officials and athletes – have tested positive.

An increase in cases among the Japanese population – of whom only a third have been vaccinated – also led to the declaration of a state of emergency for the duration of the Games.

However, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday congratulated organizers for “doing your best” so far, telling them that a “zero risk” Games was not Not possible.

“The mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases,” he added. “The hallmark of success is ensuring that all cases are identified, isolated, located and taken care of as quickly as possible.”

The first events of Tokyo 2020 have already started, with the Japanese hosts winning their softball game on Wednesday.

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