TOKYO, Jul 22 – On the eve of the Tokyo Games, organizers fired the director of the opening ceremony for a joke he made about the Holocaust, while media reported that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch supporter of the Tokyo Games, would not be attending the event.
The news is the latest in a series of outrageous embarrassments for Tokyo organizers, coming just days after a well-known musician was forced to resign from his position as songwriter for the ceremony after harassment and abuse were revealed in his past.
Earlier this year, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee resigned after making sexist remarks and the creative head of the Tokyo Olympics followed him after making disparaging remarks about a popular Japanese cheerleader.
Organizers of the Tokyo Games fired Kentaro Kobayashi on Thursday for a joke he made about the Holocaust as part of his comedy act in the 1990s and that recently resurfaced in the national media.
“I offer my deepest apologies for causing trouble and concern to many affected people, as well as Tokyo residents and the Japanese, as the opening ceremony is about to take place,” said a grim Seiko Hashimoto, who heads the organizer committee.
Earlier, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, issued a statement claiming that Kobayashi’s association with the Olympics would “insult the memory” of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Kobayashi apologized in a statement for his comments in the past.
“PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER”
At the time of the bid, Abe and his supporters hoped that the Olympics would be similar to the 1964 Tokyo Games, which heralded the nation’s resurgence after decades of economic stagnation, and would also see its recovery from the devastating nuclear and natural disaster from 2011.
Yet the spectacle of last-minute personnel changes, the reappearance of abusive comments from the past, and the looming presence of the pandemic threaten to turn the Olympics into a “public relations disaster,” according to Bob Pickard, a veteran relations executive.
“Tokyo 2020 was supposed to be a global platform for the launch of a new Japan that faces an international future with confidence. Instead, what we see here is the legacy of the island attitudes of old Japan steeped in world prejudice. past and outdated stereotypes,” he said.
Friday’s opening ceremony will be a low-key affair, with only 950 people in attendance, including a dozen world leaders. Spectators have been banned from most Olympic events, as COVID-19 cases rise in the capital.
Only a third of Japanese have taken at least one dose of the vaccine, fueling public concern that the Olympics could become a wide-spread event.
There are already 87 people related to the Olympic Games, including athletes, who have tested positive for COVID-19, which has forced the removal of these athletes and the isolation of their teammates.
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