opening ceremony manager sacked over 1998 Holocaust joke

Accused of having used “used a mocking language about a tragic historical fact” in a video in 1998, Kentaro Kobayashi was ousted from his post.

New scandal around the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on Friday: the person responsible for the opening ceremony was dismissed from his post because of a joke on the Holocaust dating back more than 20 years, the organizers announced Thursday.

«We learned that during a past artistic performance», Kentaro Kobayashi «had used mocking language about a tragic historical factTokyo-2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters. “The organizing committee decided to remove Mr. Kobayashi from his postShe added.

The consequences of his ouster for the opening ceremony on Friday night were still uncertain. “We are still thinking about how we can deliver the ceremony tomorrow“, Confided Mrs. Hashimoto, specifying that she wanted to draw conclusions”as fast as possible».

In a comedy sketch that aired on video in 1998, Mr. Kobayashi and another comedian impersonated a famous host duo of a Japanese children’s television show. By pretending to imagine a DIY activity where it would be a question of creating and installing small paper dolls, Mr. Kobayashi had told his partner: “the ones from the last time you said + let’s play the Holocaust +», Triggering laughter from the audience.

Kentaro Kobayashi, Director of the Opening Ceremony (on poster). KYODO / REUTERS

The duo then joked by imagining the anger of the producer of the show because of this reference to the Holocaust. This sketch, “that I had written, contained lines that were extremely inappropriate“, Apologized in a statement Mr. Kobayashi, a personality of the world of entertainment in Japan. “This goes back to a time when I couldn’t get people to laugh the way I wanted to, and I believe I was trying to get people’s attention in a thoughtless way.“, he added.

Cascading scandals

The Simon-Wiesenthal Center for the fight against anti-Semitism and racism condemned in a statement on Wednesday the past remarks of Mr. Kobayashi, denouncing his “malicious and anti-Semitic jokes».

«No one, however creative, has the right to make fun of the victims of the genocide (committed by the) Nazis“, Wrote the organization, judging that”any association of that person with the Tokyo Games would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a mockery of the Paralympic Games.Mr. Kobayashi also joked about people with disabilities in other sketches.

This dismissal comes just a few days after the resignation of Keigo Oyamada, composer of one of the musical themes of the opening ceremony. The Japanese artist, known by the pseudonym Cornelius, had been caught up by old interviews he gave in the 1990s, where he lightly recounted how he persecuted disabled classmates in his youth.

In March, another artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, Hiroshi Sasaki, had also resigned for having suggested internally to disguise as pig a Japanese actress and star of social networks with assumed curves, Naomi Watanabe.

And in February, the president of Tokyo-2020, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, was also forced to step down for sexist remarks that sparked a global outcry.

These cascading scandals have further tarnished the image of the Tokyo Olympics, already unpopular with a large part of the Japanese population who fear that the event will worsen the health crisis in the country.

Due to the restrictions in the face of the pandemic and the closed doors decided for almost all Olympic competitions, barely 950 VIPs are expected to attend the opening ceremony on Friday at the new Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

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