Flags hang over the pool during water sports training at the Tokyo Aquatics Center ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 22 in Tokyo, Japan. Clive Rose / Getty Images
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony show director was sacked Thursday shortly after local media reported anti-Semitic comments he made on the Holocaust in 1998.
Comedian Kentaro Kobayashi would be fired for his past performance ridiculing “painful facts of history,” Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.
“As the opening ceremony draws nearer, we apologize deeply for the inconvenience and concern caused to many, the citizens of Tokyo and the people of Tokyo,” the statement said.
Although Kobayashi’s comments were made more than two decades ago, they only recently reappeared in the Japanese press.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global human rights group, condemned the statements on Wednesday.
“Any association of that person with the Tokyo Olympics would offend the memory of six million Jews and cruelly mock the Paralympics,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the centre’s deputy dean and director of global social action.
Kobayashi issued a statement apologizing, saying his past behavior was “inadequate”.
“As a person in the business of entertaining people, it shouldn’t be my job to make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my foolish choice of words was a mistake then, and I regret it,” he said.
How Kobayashi will be replaced just one day before the opening ceremony, the organizers did not explain in their statement.
Kobayashi is the second official linked to the event to be dropped this week due to recent comments. The opening and closing ceremony musical composer Keigo Oyamada resigned after being criticized for saying in interviews that he harassed classmates.
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. in Tokyo, but it will be slimmed down compared to previous versions. Only about 950 VIPs will attend, the organizers said.