Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony director fired for Holocaust joke
Final preparations for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 are underway. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
THE show director for the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony has been sacked over a decades-old comedy skit mentioning the Holocaust, the organisers of the controversy-plagued event said on Thursday (22).
Kentaro Kobayashi, 48, had made a controversial remark in a video of the sketch dating from 1998 that emerged online on the eve of the opening ceremony on Friday (23), AFP reported.
“It came to light that during a past performance, (he) used language that mocked a tragic fact of history,” Tokyo 2020 Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto told the media. “The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post,” she added. In the sketch, Kobayashi and a comedy partner pretend to be a pair of famous children’s TV entertainers.
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As they engage in an activity with paper, Kobayashi refers to some paper doll cutouts, calling them as “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust’”. The remark saw the audience reacting with laughter. The pair then ridiculed the fact that a television producer was irked by the suggestion of a Holocaust activity.
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The sketch sparked outrage in Japan. One online viewer reacted saying, “It’s inevitable that they’ll face a fireball of criticism.” There were also others who questioned the strong reaction being made to a sketch which is more than two-decades old.
Kobayashi, who is well-known in Japan’s theatre circles, apologised in a statement saying, “In a video that was released in 1998 to introduce young comedians… a skit that I wrote contained lines that were extremely inappropriate.”
“It was from a time when I was not able to get laughs the way I wanted, and I believe I was trying to grab people’s attention in a shallow-minded way.”
Kobayashi becomes the latest member involved with the Olympics to quit.
Earlier this week, a composer for the opening ceremony pulled out after it emerged that he had bullied classmates with disabilities at school.
In March, the Olympics’ creative chief Hiroshi Sasaki stepped down after plus-size woman comedian Naomi Watanabe could appear as an “Olympig”. He later apologised for the remark.
In February, Yoshiro Mori was removed as the head of the organising committee after he had made remarks about women that were called “inappropriate”. He reportedly said that women talked too much and meetings with many women board directors would “take a lot of time”.