The program director for the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony was fired on Thursday, shortly after local media reported on anti-Semitic comments he made about the Holocaust in 1998.
Comedian Kentaro Kobayashi will be fired because his past performance mocked “the painful truth of history,” Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.
“As the opening ceremony draws near, we deeply apologize for the inconvenience and anxiety caused to many involved, Tokyo citizens and Tokyoites,” the statement read.
Although Kobayashi’s comments were made more than two decades ago, they have only recently appeared in the Japanese press.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights group, condemned the remarks on Wednesday.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, vice-chancellor and director of global social action for the center, said: “Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would offend the memory of six million Jews and cruelly mocked the Paralympics”.
Kobayashi apologized in a statement, saying his past behavior was “inappropriate.”
“As a person in the entertainment industry, my job should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my foolish choice of words at that time was a mistake and I deeply regret it,” he said. speak.
The organizers did not elaborate in their statement how Kobayashi would be replaced just a day before the opening ceremony.
Kobayashi is the second official involved in the event to lose his position this week due to recent comments that have been made public. The composer of the opening and closing ceremonies, Keigo Oyamada, resigned after being criticized for saying in interviews that he bullied his classmates.
The opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020 is scheduled for 8pm on Friday in Tokyo, but will be slightly reduced from previous editions. The organizers said there will only be about 950 VIP guests to attend.
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