Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, was dismissed late Wednesday over footage of him joking about the Holocaust.
Kobayashi, 48, referred to the Holocaust as a “let’s massacre Jewish people game” in one clip from 1998, previously made his name as part of a comedy duo dubbed Ramens.
Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said in a press conference that she and other members of the planning commission would “review the entire program” Thursday, the day before the ceremony. Hashimoto said she learned of Kobayashi’s offensive jokes Tuesday morning and that she regretted how long it took to fire the comedian.
“I’ll have to make sure first of all to establish a structure of operations so that we will never trouble any more people,” Hashimoto said, according to New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Motoko Rich.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the Simon Weisenthal Center, condemned Kobayashi in strong terms: “Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide. The Nazi regime also gassed Germans with disabilities. Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics.”
Just this week, Japanese composer Keigo Oyamada pulled out of the opening ceremony after old interviews in which he admitted to bullying resurfaced.
Oyamada, 52, bragged in the 1990s that he forced a disabled boy to masturbate in front of others and to eat his own feces. A musical piece he composed for the ceremony has been dropped from the extravaganza.
In March, the creative director of the opening ceremony, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned after a magazine revealed he had planned to dress a plus-size fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe, in pig ears for the ceremony. In a pitch for the display, he made the idea literal, calling her an “Olympig.” He later apologized.
In February, the president of the Olympics organizing body, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, resigned under fire after misogynistic comments about “annoying” women.
Meanwhile, COVID has haunted the Games and turned public sentiment in Japan against them.
Dozens of athletes from around the world have tested positive for the coronavirus in the run-up to competition, including five members of Team USA.
As The Daily Beast reported this week, Tokyo deliberately delayed the second vaccine shot for volunteers who are working the event because it feared a reaction to the inoculation could knock them out of commission. As a result, an army of workers will be half-vaxxed and thus vulnerable to infection and potential spreaders of the virus.