The show director for the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony was sacked on Thursday, shortly after local media reported anti-Semitic comments he made about the Holocaust in 1998.
Comedian Kentaro Kobayashi would be fired for his past performance, which ridiculed “painful facts of history,” Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.
“As the opening ceremony draws near, we deeply apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused to the many concerned, the citizens of Tokyo and the residents of Tokyo,” the statement said.
Although Kobayashi’s comments were made over two decades ago, they only recently resurfaced in the Japanese press.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights group, condemned the comments on Wednesday.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a mockery of the Paralympic Games,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center and director of global advocacy.
Kobayashi apologized in a statement, saying his past behavior was “inappropriate”.
“As someone who is concerned with entertaining people, my job shouldn’t be to make people feel rude. I understand that my foolish word choice back then was a mistake, and I do. regret, “he said.
The organizers did not explain in their statement how Kobayashi will be replaced just one day before the opening ceremony.
Kobayashi is the second official linked to the event to lose his post this week due to recently publicized comments. Opening and Closing Ceremonies music composer Keigo Oyamada resigned from his post after being criticized for saying in interviews that he bullied his classmates.
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. in Tokyo, but will be stripped-down compared to previous versions. Only around 950 VIPs will be in attendance, organizers said.