TOKYO, 22 July 2021:
One of the creative directors of the Tokyo 2020 opening and closing ceremonies was dismissed from his role today amid criticism of past comments on the Holocaust, the organising committee said at a press conference.
Kentaro Kobayashi, a comedian and theatre director, was let go after a video emerged of him joking about the Holocaust – reportedly as part of a 1998 skit that included the phrase: “Let’s play Holocaust.”
The latest scandal surrounding the Games comes on the eve of the opening ceremony and two days after a musician, known in Japan as Cornelius, stepped down as composer – following another controversy over an old interview in which he admitted to having bullied school classmates.
Kobayashi’s resignation was accepted by the organisers, and comes after Jewish organisations spoke out against him in recent days.
The 48-year-old comedian, best known for being a member of a popular comic duo until 2009, apologised today for his comments, saying they were “extremely imprudent.”
The organisers are now discussing how to manage the opening ceremony and hope to reach a conclusion soon, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto, said.
Kobayashi was in charge of the general supervision of the three sections of the opening ceremony tomorrow and also of giving coherence to all the participants, said the organizers.
Others who have stepped down in previous months include the former organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after making sexist comments, as well as another creative director, who suggested that a popular actress be lowered into the Olympic stadium dressed as a pig.
When asked about the never-ending list of problems for the organisers, Hashimoto said such incidents had a tremendous impact, which is why the organisers decided to act quickly.