The organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics removed the director of the opening ceremony from his post because of a touch of Holocaust humor in a filmed sketch that dates back to 1998.
On July 21, two days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, organizing committee chairwoman Seiko Hashimoto announced that opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi had been fired. In question, a video dating from 1998, in which we see the Japanese actor, now 48 years old, participating in a sketch during which he notably pronounces the phrase “let’s play the Holocaust”.
“We learned that during a past artistic performance [Kentaro Kobayashi] had used mocking language about a tragic historical fact, ”explained Seiko Hashimoto before presenting her team’s public apologies for this last-minute upheaval.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center had stepped up to the plate
In the video in question, Kentaro Kobayashi and another comedian emulate a famous host duo of a Japanese children’s television show. Staging himself in a do-it-yourself activity centered on small paper dolls, the Japanese actor notably launches his partner, evoking activities to do: “Those of the last time you said” let’s play the Holocaust ” », Triggering laughter from the audience. The duo then jokes by imagining the anger of the producer of the show because of this reference to the Shoah. “It goes back to a time when I couldn’t make people laugh the way I wanted, and I think I was trying to get people’s attention in a thoughtless way,” Kentaro Kobayashi apologized.
“No one, however creative, has the right to make fun of the victims of the Nazi genocide […] Any association of that person with the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a mockery of the Paralympic Games, ”the Simon Wiesenthal Center – an international Jewish human rights organization, previously said on July 21. man – through the voice of Abraham Cooper, rabbi and director of his “global advocacy”.
“We will have the opening ceremony tomorrow and, yes, I am sure there are a lot of people who do not feel comfortable with the opening of the Games”, further reacted the president of the committee of organization in view of the scandals which have multiplied since Tokyo won the Olympic Games.
Avalanche of scandals around the Tokyo Olympics
Indeed, as AFP notes, this dismissal comes just a few days after the resignation of Keigo Oyamada, composer of one of the musical themes of the opening ceremony. The Japanese artist had been caught up by old interviews he gave in the 1990s, where he lightly recounted how he persecuted disabled classmates in his youth, including involving them in sexual games. and scatophiles.
In March, another artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Hiroshi Sasaki, had also resigned for having suggested internally to dress up a corpulent actress and Japanese social media star, Naomi Watanabe, as a pig. And in February, the president of Tokyo-2020, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, was also forced to leave office for comments deemed sexist. While the organizing committee for the Olympic Games was discussing the goal of targeting at least 40% female members, he shared his personal experience, explaining that “boards of directors with a lot of women” took “a lot of time”. “Women have a strong sense of competition. If a person raises their hand, the others say to themselves “I must probably say something too”. “, He had illustrated in support of his point, declaring himself in favor of a limitation of speaking time in committee meetings. organization.
These cascading scandals have tarnished the image of the Tokyo Olympics, already unpopular with a large part of the Japanese population who fears that the event will worsen the health crisis in the country. French investigators have also brought to light alleged bribes paid to members of the International Olympic Committee to influence the vote in favor of Tokyo. The case had notably caused the departure, in June 2019, of an influential member of the International Olympic Committee, the septuagenarian Tsunekazu Takeda. Originally scheduled for July 24 to August 9, 2020, the Olympic Games are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021 (and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5, 2021).