Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said in a briefing Thursday that Kentaro Kobayashi, who was part of a comedy act in the 1990s, was fired over comments that mocked the tragedy.
In a video clip from his 1998 issue, Kobayashi was seen joking about a game he called “let’s play slaughter of the Jews”, eliciting laughter from the audience.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, earlier issued a statement condemning Kobayashi’s past behavior.
“Any association of this person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and cruelly mock the Paralympics,” said Abraham Cooper, rabbi, associate dean and director of global outreach at the center.
Kobayashi himself said he regretted what he called a “stupid choice” of words.
The news is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Tokyo organizers that sparked outrage at home and abroad and comes just days after a well-known musician was forced to resign from his post. songwriter for the ceremony after old reports of his bullying and abusive behavior. also surfaced.
In February, Yoshiro Mori, who was once Japanese prime minister, was forced to resign over sexist remarks. A month later, Games Creative Manager Hiroshi Sasaki also had to resign after making derogatory comments about a popular Japanese artist.
Abe to skip the ceremony
Meanwhile, public broadcaster NHK reported that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided not to attend the ceremony.
The Japanese government had previously declared a state of emergency and restrictions on viruses in Tokyo, in an effort to minimize health risks to residents and visitors.
Abe’s office could not be reached immediately on Thursday, a public holiday in Japan.
Abe, who disguised himself as the titular plumber of the Super Mario video game at the Rio Games to represent Japan, played an outsized role in attracting the Olympics to Tokyo.
At the time, Abe and his supporters hoped the Olympics would run parallel to the 1964 Tokyo Games heralding the country’s rebirth after decades of economic stagnation and also mark its recovery from the devastating Fukushima nuclear and natural disaster in 2011.
Instead, the Games, delayed for a year due to the global pandemic, faced a series of scandals and setbacks.
– #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 22, 2021
Friday’s opening ceremony, which normally bills itself as an important showcase for the host nation, is expected to be a moderate affair, with Japanese media reporting that fewer than 950 people – including only about 15 world leaders – are expected to attend.
Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, is expected to land in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for the ceremony, raising hopes that she could also use her presence to discuss vaccines with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Biden has traveled across the United States to urge more people in the country to get vaccinated.
Only a third of Japanese people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, raising public concerns that the Olympics will become a big-ticket event.
Already dozens of participants have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing withdrawals of athletes and their teammates into isolation.
COVID-19 infections have jumped in the capital and are expected to rise further, straining healthcare providers.
In a recent poll by the Asahi newspaper, 68% of those polled expressed doubts about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were against continuing the Games.
Olympic competition has already started, with the Japanese women’s softball team giving the hosts a winning start on Wednesday, as Sweden beat the United States in women’s football.