The director of the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been dismissed, the organisers have said following news reports that he had previously made jokes about the Holocaust, Aljazeera news reports
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing on Thursday that Kentaro Kobayashi, who was part of a comedy act in the 1990s, had been dismissed because of comments that made fun of the tragedy.
In a video clip of his 1998 act, Kobayashi was seen joking about a game he called “let’s play massacre the Jews”, prompting laughter in the audience.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organisation, earlier released a statement condemning Kobayashi’s past behaviour.
“Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics,” said Abraham Cooper, a rabbi, associate dean and global social action director of the centre.
Kobayashi himself said he regretted what he called a “stupid choice” of words.
The news is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Tokyo organisers that have sparked outrage at home and abroad and comes just days after a well-known musician was forced to step down as composer for the ceremony after old reports of his bullying and abusive behaviour also surfaced.
In February, Yoshiro Mori, who as once Japanese prime minister, was forced to quit over sexist remarks. A month later, the Games creative head, Hiroshi Sasaki, also had to resign after making derogatory comments about a popular Japanese female entertainer.
Meanwhile, public broadcaster NHK reported that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided against attending the ceremony.
The Japanese government had earlier declared a state of emergency and virus restrictions over Tokyo, in an effort to minimise health risks among residents and visitors.