Tokyo 2020 / AP
TOKYO – Just a day before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japanese organizers fired the director of the show due to past comments about the Holocaust. It was another setback for the turbulent event of the same week that the composer of the ceremony was ousted.
It is not yet clear how the last-minute departure of director Kentara Kobayashi will affect the ceremony, which should be worked out over three hours on Friday morning by ET.
“We are currently discussing how we will conduct the ceremony,” organizing committee chairman Seiko Hashimoto told reporters on Thursday.
Kobayashi, who is a comedian, reportedly joked anti-Semitically about the Holocaust on a 1998 show.
That act reportedly had a section titled “Let’s Play the Holocaust”. He recently reappeared in the Japanese media ahead of the opening ceremony.
It is also alleged that Kobayashi harassed people with disabilities.
“We are facing many challenges at the moment,” Hashimoto admitted on Thursday. “Maybe that’s why these negative incidents will affect the messages we want to convey to the world. The value of Tokyo 2020 is still exciting and we want to send our messages to the world.”
On Wednesday, center Simon Wiesenthal of Los Angeles condemned the comments from a former director.
“Any joining this person to the Tokyo Olympics would offend the memory of six million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics,” said SWC associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper in a statement.
Organizers of the opening ceremony are also shifting due to changes in the music at the last minute after the composer resigned. In interviews in the 1990s, Keigo Oyamada boasted of bullying people while he was a student – including schoolmates with disabilities.
Oyamada, known as Cornelius, resigned Monday after Japanese officials overturned his original decision to allow him to retain his role. In the end, the organizers decided not to use his composition at the ceremony.
“As for the opening ceremony, this is a very critical thing, so it is important that we hold a respectable opening ceremony. We will make every effort to do so,” Hashimoto said on Tuesday.
Hashimoto herself became the head of the organizing committee after her predecessor resigned in February. Yoshiro Mori caused outrage when he made comments suggesting that women talk too much at board meetings.
And in March, the creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies resigned after making derogatory comments about the Japanese comedian.
Despite all the traffic from the organizers of the opening ceremony – including the most important figure the day before – the show continues tomorrow. It is the official start of the Games which has been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.