The director of the Tokyo Summer Olympics opening ceremony has been fired after footage from a 1998 comic strip showed him making an anti-Semitic joke about the Holocaust.
Kentaro Kobayashi was relieved of his duties just a day before the opening ceremony of the Summer Games scheduled to be held in Japan.
The organizing committee confirmed Kobayashi’s departure in a statment. He explained that the creative director was removed from his position “after a joke he had made in the past was revealed about a painful historical event.”
“In the short time remaining before the opening ceremony, we offer our deepest apologies for any offense and concern this matter has caused to many people participating in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world,” he told the committee.
Kobayashi, who is known for his work as a comedian, actor and theater director, appeared in the 1998 comedy duo, framework. During a sketch, Kobayashi and Jin Katagiri mock the hosts of a children’s educational program. Kobayashi pointed to some scraps of paper dolls, calling them “the ones around the time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust’,” according to Agence France-Presse.
His remarks were met with laughter from the audience.
Shots have been exchanged Online Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga condemned the comments as “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Kobayashi issued a domestic apology tell him newsletter: “I’m in the business of entertaining people. I should never make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my foolish choice of words at the time was a mistake, and I’m sorry for that.”
His departure comes days after one of the event’s authors, Keigo Oyamada, submitted his resignation when an old magazine interview resurfaced in which he admitted to bullying other kids at school, including a classmate with learning difficulties.
The commission described Oyamada’s actions as “totally unacceptable. A four-minute segment of the show where his music was scheduled to play has now been cut.
There is no confirmation on how Kobayashi’s departure will affect the program or whether the changes are expected to reduce his contribution.
The opening ceremony marks the start of the Olympics and is usually a show of high production value, highlighting the cultural wonders of the host nation and setting the tone for sporting excellence for two weeks.
This year’s show is set to be even more submissive relationship, Reuters reports. Games postponed due to the pandemic have been presented with one challenge after another multi-athletes Tests have been positive for COVID, and Tokyo is reporting increasing numbers of cases.