Preparations for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony have been thrown into further confusion after the show’s director was fired for a Holocaust joke he made in the late 1990s.
Kentaro Kobayashi, a folk artist, was fired after a video clip he resurfaced online from a parody in which he joked about a game that he called “let’s play massacre the Jews”, drawing laughter from the audience.
The 1998 parody, made when he was one half of the Rahmens comedy duo, was a parody of a popular educational television show and featured Kobayashi and his partner recounting a discussion with their producer about ideas for the show using paper cutouts from human figures.
It is unclear how Kobayashi’s resignation will affect the opening of the Games curtain, usually an opportunity to build anticipation for the fortnight of sports to follow, but that in Tokyo it will take place amid unprecedented disruption and, due to to the coronavirus, in an almost empty main stadium.
Kobayashi apologized in a statement published by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, saying that as a young comedian he had been looking for “cheap laughs” but quickly acknowledged that he was at fault.
“It should never be an animator’s job to make people uncomfortable,” he said. “I understand that my choice of words at the time was wrong, and I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize for making people uncomfortable. So sorry.”
The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee confirmed that it had relieved Kobayashi of his duties. “In the short time remaining before the opening ceremony, we offer our deepest apologies for any offense and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world. “, He said. it said in a statement.
The head of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, apologized for the latest scandal in the preparations, adding that officials “are still considering” what form the ceremony would take, just over 24 hours before it starts.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights organization, condemned Kobayashi for making “malicious and anti-Semitic jokes.”
“Anyone, no matter how creative, has no right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s director of global social action, said in a statement.
Kobayashi is the third high-profile artist associated with the ceremony to resign over discriminatory comments and, in one case, abusive behavior.
Its creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after he compared popular female celebrity Naomi Watanabe to a pig. Sasaki apologized, describing his comments as “unforgivable”.
On Monday, one of the event’s composers, Keigo Oyamada, resigned after old magazine interviews resurfaced in which he joked about bullying other children at school, including classmates with intellectual disabilities.
Oyamada told Quick Japan magazine in 1995 how he had locked a classmate in a cardboard box and forced a child with an intellectual disability to eat his own feces and masturbate in front of other children. He made similar comments in another magazine interview a year earlier.
Olympic organizers condemned the 52-year-old’s actions and comments, but initially said they would continue to work with him with such little time before the opening ceremony. Oyamada apologized and said he felt “deep regret” for his subsequent actions and comments.
While Kobayashi drew harsh criticism on social media, some defended the parody as a lack of juvenile judgment.
Ken Mogi, a prominent neuroscientist and broadcaster, said the comedian did not deserve to be vilified for a short comment made more than two decades ago.
“He has constantly been making shows that focus on the good and loving nature of humans,” Mogi said on YouTube. commentary.
“He has never advocated for discrimination, he has always been considerate of minorities, and he himself is a really wonderful, loving and considerate person. So this particular clip that appeared in the last few hours is inappropriate … I wish I hadn’t, but anyone can be neglected for a brief moment. “
Kobayashi’s firing is the latest in a series of setbacks for organizers, who are also grappling with Games-related coronavirus cases and the decision by Toyota and other Japanese sponsors to skip the opening ceremony amid tepid public support. to the Olympics.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism