Categories: CeremonyOpening

Opening ceremony director for 2021 Tokyo Olympics fired after comments about Holocaust surface

TOKYO — Organizers announced Thursday that they have dismissed the director of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics after learning that he made light of the Holocaust in a comedy routine.

The firing of the director, comedian Kentaro Kobayashi, comes a little more than 24 hours before the scheduled start of the ceremony Friday.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said in a news conference that organizers are reviewing the entirety of the program for the opening ceremony in the wake of Kobayashi’s dismissal. Hashimoto said they became aware of his past remarks about the Holocaust, which he made in 1998, on Wednesday morning. 

Hashimoto said they “deeply regret” the situation.

“The overall responsibility lies in me,” she said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global human rights organization based in Los Angeles, condemned Kobayashi’s remarks on Wednesday. The center, citing Japanese news reports, said Kobayashi “made malicious and anti-Semitic jokes including ‘let’s play Holocaust.’ “

“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean and global social action director.

MORE: For the first time, two US flagbearers are named for ceremony

RELATED: Ceremony composer resigns after backlash for bullying 

Kobayashi’s dismissal is the latest in a string of embarrassing moments for the organizing committee, and particularly its opening ceremony team.

Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer, resigned from the Tokyo 2020 creative team earlier this week amid backlash for bullying a classmate with disabilities during his childhood.

A previous creative director for the opening ceremony, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March amid revelations that he had made sexist remarks about a well-known female entertainer in Japan, likening her in a brainstorming session to a pig.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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