Olympics opening ceremony director sacked for Holocaust joke
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The show director of the Olympics opening ceremony has been dismissed, one day before the event is due to be held.
Footage of Kentaro Kobayashi from the 1990s recently emerged in which he appears to be making jokes about the Holocaust.
Japan’s Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto said the video ridiculed “painful facts of history”.
The dismissal is the latest in a string of scandals to hit the Games.
Since the start of the year, three men have been forced to step down.
This latest scandal has seen former comedian Mr Kobayashi strongly criticised for a sketch he performed 23 years ago, in which he and another comedian pretend to be children’s entertainers.
In the sketch Mr Kobayashi turns to his colleague, referring to some paper dolls, saying they are “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust'”, according to AFP news agency.
“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the US-based Holocaust research body Simon Wiesenthal Center, said.
Mr Kobayashi also issued a statement responding to his dismissal.
“Entertainment should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it,” it said.
Friday’s ceremony will officially kick off two weeks of competition. However, after the removal of Mr Kobayashi, organisers are now reassessing how to hold Friday’s event – which will only be attended by 950 people, in order to minimise risks.
“With the opening ceremony being so imminent, we apologise for causing concern to those involved in the Olympics, to the citizens of Tokyo and the Japanese public,” Ms Hashimoto said in a statement.
The scandals have done little to stop massive unease about the Games, which were postponed from last year due to the pandemic. The head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Committee admitted this week that he has not ruled out cancellation, even at this late stage.
A recent poll found some 55% of people in Japan were opposed to holding the Games, amid fears it could become a coronavirus super-spreader event, Reuters news agency reported.
Already, organisers are dealing with rising Covid case numbers among athletes and officials. On Thursday, they said 91 people accredited for the Games have now tested positive for the virus.
An increase in cases among Japan’s population – only of a third of whom have been vaccinated – has also led to a state of emergency being declared for the duration of the Games.
But Tokyo 2020 is now under way, with the hosts Japan winning their softball match on Wednesday.