Tokyo Olympics 2020
Tokyo Olympics 2020
ANI

Tokyo: Tokyo Olympics organisers have fired the opening ceremony director on the eve of the event after reports emerged of a past joke he had made about the Holocaust, during a comedy show in 1998, including the phrase "Let's play Holocaust."

"We found out that Mr. Kentaro Kobayashi, in his own performance, used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy," Organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said.

"We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country."

Tokyo has been plagued with scandals since being awarded the Games in 2013. French investigators are looking into alleged bribes paid to International Olympic Committee members to influence the vote for Tokyo. The fallout forced the resignation two years ago of Tsunekazu Takeda, who headed the Japanese Olympic Committee and was an IOC member.

The opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games is scheduled for Friday. The ceremony will be held without spectators as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will attend.

"We are going to have the opening ceremony tomorrow and, yes, I am sure there are a lot of people who are not feeling easy about the opening of the Games," Hashimoto said.

Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be used at the ceremony, was forced to resign because of past bullying of his classmates, which he boasted about in magazine interviews. The segment of his music will not be used.

Soon after a video clip and script of Olympics opening ceremony director Kobayashi's performance were revealed, criticism flooded social media.

"Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide," said a Los Angeles-based human rights group.

He also noted that the Nazis 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," he said.

Japan is pushing ahead with the Olympics against the advice of most of its medical experts. This is partially due to pressure from the IOC, which is estimated to face losses of $3 billion to $4 billion in television rights income if the Games were not held.

The last-minute scandals come as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government faces criticism for prioritizing the Olympics despite public health concerns amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

Kobayashi's Holocaust joke and Oyamada's resignation were the latest to plague the Games. The creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies also stepped down after suggesting a Japanese actress should dress as a pig.

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