Amid pandemic-related pressure on the organizers, a top Tokyo Olympics official assigned to opening ceremony was ousted for his past remarks regarding Holocaust, local media reported on Thursday.
The much-awaited Tokyo Olympics is set to open on Friday amid strict coronavirus measures. The world’s biggest tournament was delayed last summer until July this year due to raging pandemic.
Kentaro Kobayashi, a show director for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, was dismissed “for joking about the Holocaust in the past,” according to Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.
The move came after a video of Kobayashi, 48, a former comedian, included a phrase, “Let’s play Holocaust,” triggering condemnations. The video was shot of a skit from 1998.
“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,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, from Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization.
“Kobayashi’s association with the Tokyo Olympics will insult the memory of six million Jews,” Cooper added.
Kobayashi, a second official to step down from Tokyo Olympics, apologized, saying it was “extremely imprudent.”
“I understand that my poor choice of words at the time was a mistake and I regret it,” he said. “I would like to apologize to everyone who was offended.”
Acting fast, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing on Thursday: “We are reviewing the entire (ceremony) and we are quickly discussing how to hold it. We would like to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.”
“The opening ceremony is tomorrow, so we will prepare for it so we can earn the understanding (of everybody) on holding the ceremony,” she said.