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Creative director of opening ceremony resigns over Holocaust joke

TOKYO – Just a day before the opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics, Games organizers fired Kentaro Kobayashi, the creative director of the ceremony, after video footage of him mocking him was released. the Holocaust in a comedic act in the 1990s.

At a press briefing Thursday, Seiko Hashimoto, appearing under siege after a series of scandals that plagued the Games and the creative staff at the Opening Ceremony in particular, said she learned the routine on Wednesday, including Mr. Kobayashi joked. “Massacre Jews” in a sketch by mimicking the act of cutting human figures out of paper. The organizing committee, she said, decided to fire him “immediately”.

In a statement, Mr Kobayashi said he regretted the routine after doing it and “started aiming to create comedies that don’t hurt others.”

“I understand my word choice was wrong and I regret it,” said his statement. “I apologize to those who felt upset.”

The organizing committee, in an official statement, said Mr. Kobayashi had “made fun of a painful historical fact in the past” and apologized “for causing problems and concerns to many. stakeholders, as well as to the inhabitants of Tokyo and Japan ”.

The swift decision to fire Mr. Kobayashi contrasted with the resignation earlier this week of Keigo Oyamada, a composer who had written music for the opening ceremony, after excerpts from interviews he gave in the 1990s , confessing to serious bullying and abuse of people with disabilities. classmates have surfaced on social networks.

Mr Oyamada apologized at first and it appeared he would keep his job before a massive social media campaign prompted him to quit. “We should have fired Mr. Oyamada earlier,” Ms. Hashimoto said.

Mr. Kobayashi is the second Creative Director of the Opening Ceremony to step down. In March, Hiroshi Sasaki resigned after a magazine revealed he compared a popular comedian and plus-size fashion designer to a pig by offering to participate in the ceremony. Mr Sasaki’s resignation came just weeks after Yoshiro Mori, the former chairman of the Tokyo organizing committee, also resigned after making sexist comments about women.

On Twitter, some people have questioned why Mr Kobayashi was fired for an old routine, but others said his firing was not enough. “The dismissal of Kentaro Kobayashi after the Holocaust skit was discovered in the past is a quick step,” wrote one attach. “But are they going to play what this guy directed at the opening ceremony tomorrow?” Is the problem solved just because he was fired? “

When asked if she regretted continuing the Games amid the unfolding scandals and the increase in coronavirus cases in the Olympic Village, Ms Hashimoto admitted that the Tokyo organizers were “facing everyone possible problems “. But, she said, “we want you to remember Tokyo for overcoming a lot of problems and being successful.”

Hikari Hida and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting

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